[editorial] Children’s and Youth Literature in a Changing World

Myry Voipio and Suvi Oksanen

– What if we are on a dangerous mission? I would not be much of a hero.
– Neither would I, I think, Aliisa sighed.
They were silent and immersed in thought.
– But I am not worried, Meri said eventually.
– Do you know why?
– Why?
– Because I believe that together we might be able to be heroes.

(Simukka 2016: Sisarla, 50.)

– Jos meillä onkin jokin vaarallinen tehtävä? Ei minusta ole sankariksi.
– Ei ehkä minustakaan, Aliisa huokasi.
He olivat hiljaa ja miettivät.
– Mutta en minä silti ole huolissani, Meri sanoi viimein.
– Tiedätkö miksi?
– No?
– Koska luulen, että yhdessä meistä voikin olla sankareiksi.

(Simukka 2016: Sisarla, 50.)

Even when danger lurks and fear is about to take over, friendship and tolerance can provide us with the strength to act. This is a lesson taught in the recent Finnish children’s and youth literature: it can be found in picture books, children’s fantasy novels as well as in realistic and speculative youth and young adult literature. It is depicted in the friendship of the dog and an outcast man in Tomi Kontio’s and Elina Warsta’s picture book Koira nimeltään Kissa (’The Dog Called Cat’, 2015) and in the warm understanding between a little girl and her monster nanny in Tuutikki Tolonen’s children’s novel, Mörkövahti (’Monster Nanny’, 2015). It is discussed by two 11-year-old girls in Salla Simukka’s latest novel Sisarla (’Sisterland’, 2016), and taken even further in the young adult novels about gender, identity, sexuality and equality by Siri Kolu (Kesän jälkeen kaikki on toisin,’It All Changes After the Summer’, 2016), Siiri Enoranta (Surunhauras, lasinterävä, ’The Sorrow-deer Tamer’, 2016) and Maria Turtschahninoff (Naondel, 2016). It is a lesson worth repeating, worldwide.


IBBY Finland has been working on the field of children’s and youth literature and culture since 1957. The organization was established to promote and help advance Finnish children’s and youth literature, culture and literacy. Its stated goal is to provide knowledge and information on children’s and youth literature to families, enthusiasts and professionals in order to enable and support children’s and young people’s literacy and understanding of the world. IBBY Finland aims to help push forward everybody’s equal right to literacy through promoting the joy of reading and imagination. Reading is a way to look at and cherish our differences and the versatility of life. Through reading and stories, both children and adults can gain better understanding of other cultures, their own feelings and creativity. Put more broadly, literary education creates wellbeing that carries us through life.

In the field of children’s and youth literature and culture, IBBY Finland works both nationally and internationally. As members of IBBY, we wish to promote Finnish children’s and youth literature, culture and knowledge to other IBBY national sections, as well as to enhance the awareness of international developments of children’s and youth literature in Finland. We encourage and invite everyone into the world of reading. This volume of Finnish Children’s and Youth Books (Virikkeitä, issue 2–3, 2016) is the first one written in English and published as an open access online issue. In 2015, IBBY Finland entered the world of online journals. By publishing three out of our four annual issues online, we reach towards open publishing and the sharing of information, knowledge and skills pertaining to children’s and youth literature, culture and literacy to everyone in Finland.

Finnish Children’s and Youth Books XV includes articles, overviews, interviews and columns discussing the phenomena, features and current developments in Finnish children’s and youth literature and cultural field. The key themes are equality, reading, multiculturalism, gender, sexuality, friendship and understanding, which are all palpably visible in contemporary Finnish children’s and youth literature. The pieces in this volume aim to illuminate what is going on in the diverse fields of Finnish children’s and youth literature research, writing, illustrating, translating and publishing.

In the article ”Finnish Children’s Literature Mirrors Reality in Society and Keeps the Flag High for Multiculturalism”, children’s and youth literature researcher and critic, PhD Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen discusses the importance of reading and how Finnish children’s literature discusses multiculturalism. Both of the themes are visible in all of children’s and youth literature from picture books to novels for young adults. According to Heikkilä-Halttunen, Finnish children’s and youth authors are innovatively representing the joys that follow from leisure reading and in this way they are also promoting reading, literature and literacy for the young audiences. Another prominent theme is multiculturalism and the importance of understanding other cultures. Tolerance, friendship and the understanding of different sides of life are also tangible in Elina Warsta’s text. In her overview, the illustrator and graphic designer Warsta takes the reader through the process of illustrating friendship and loneliness in the picture book Koira nimeltään Kissa (’The Dog Called Cat’, 2015), written by the Finnish author Tomi Kontio. According to Warsta, it is a story of loneliness, understanding and friendship, which she wanted to illustrate with similar multidimensional warmth and humour that is found in the text.

Recently, intersectional and more open ways of discussing gender, equality and sexuality have been central developmental ”hot spots” in Finnish youth literature. In this volume, the thematics is discussed in research articles and interviews that let the authors speak up. In an interview, the internationally established Finnish children’s and youth literature authors Siri Kolu and Salla Simukka talk about their views on LBGTIQ themes, equality, diversity and tolerance. The importance of these issues cannot be overemphasized, as the authors put it. The thematics is furthermore discussed in the article written by the children’s and youth literature researcher, PhD Myry Voipio together with the Library System Support and IBBY Finland review committee member Suvi Oksanen. In the article ”Telling About Girls: Questions of Body, Sexuality and Gender Equality in Recent Finnish YA Literature”, Voipio and Oksanen discuss the ways contemporary Finnish young adult literature depicts girls, equality, the body and sexuality in relation to power, society and gender.

In an overview, Myry Voipio introduces recent Finnish studies about children’s and youth literature: for example, horror, reading and girls’ literature have lately received the interest of researchers. Several of these publications are also available online and some of them are written in English, thus making them available for an international audience as well. In addition to recent research, this number also introduces three small Finnish publishing houses. Haamu Kustannus, Osuuskumma and Etana Editions tell us about their work, publishing procedures and ideologies. Answering on behalf of the publishing houses are Tiina Hautala (Haamu Kustannus), Jenni Meresmaa (Osuuskumma) and Jenni Erkintalo (Etana Editions).

In the text ”Illustrating the World: Pondering Illustration and Children’s Books”, the illustrator Satu Kettunen writes about the differences between illustrating one’s own and someone else’s text. She also walks us through her technique of illustrating picture books and magazines and ponders the ways in which it is possible to illustrate huge and sometimes difficult phenomena, such as silence. In the text ”From Translating Words to Translating Worlds”, the translator Sarianna Silvonen discusses the problems and joys of translating children’s and youth literature. Silvonen generally translates from English into Finnish. The final section of this volume consists of literary reviews of Finnish children’s and youth literature novels published during the past few years. The reviews cover books ranging from picture books and children’s poetry to non-fictional works, from humorous girls’ stories to novels discussing difficult issues, and from realistic contemporary fiction about boys to speculative stories set in different worlds.

This volume of Finnish Children’s and Youth Books has been interesting to edit and translate. We would like to thank the contributors who put in their effort and used their valuable time to make the publication of this issue possible. Now is the time to share the knowledge of and the views on what is going on in the Finnish children’s and youth literature and cultural field.

Literary Regards,
Myry and Suvi
Guest Editors, Finnish Children’s and Youth Books XV

This number of Finnish Children’s and Youth Books has been edited, translated and written by Suvi Oksanen and Myry Voipio. Sarianna Silvonen, Jutta Setälä, Kaisa Torkki and Jenni Erkintalo kindly provided their work and answers in English. The English titles of the Finnish books have been provided by the books’ publishers, publishing agents, or the authors. The texts have been proofread by Markku Nivalainen. IBBY Finland wishes to acknowledge the financial support by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.


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