Finnish Scholars Take a Deep Look into Children’s and Youth Literature: New Publications

Myry Voipio

Recent Finnish research on children’s and youth literature includes versatile studies done at several different faculties at several different Universities. Moreover, the researchers have also often published non-fiction for wider audiences, such as parents, grandparents and kindergarten teachers. The research topics cover, among others, fairy tales, picture books and YA literature from the viewpoints of nonsense literature, aesthetics of horror, multiculturalism and the importance of reading with children.

Nonsense, Humour and Dual-Audiences

Researcher, PhD Maria Laakso defended her doctoral dissertation in 2014 at the University of Tampere, School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies. Her thesis discusses three novels written by the Finnish author Kari Hotakainen under the title Nonsensesta parodiaan, ironiasta kielipeleihin. Monitasoinen huumori ja kaksoisyleisön puhuttelu Kari Hotakaisen Lastenkirjassa, Ritvassa ja Satukirjassa. The English title of Laakso’s dissertation is ‘From Nonsense to Parody, from Irony to Wordplay. The Multilevelity of Humour and Addressing the Dual-Audience in Kari Hotakainen’s Children’s Fiction’. Laakso’s keywords are Kari Hotakainen, dual-audience, humour and children’s literature.

To read Laakso’s dissertation online or to download a free PDF copy, follow this permanent link to the research database of the thesis repository of the University of Tampere:

Multiculturalism in Contemporary Finnish Picture books

Researcher, PhD Jaana Pesonen defended her dissertation at the University of Oulu, Faculty of Education in 2015. The thesis is titled Multiculturalism as a Challenge in Contemporary Finnish Picture Books: Reimagining Sociocultural Categories. In her research, Pesonen discusses the representations of multiculturalism in several Finnish picture books – for example, the Tatu and Patu series by Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen, the Sikuriina series by Anne-Mau Lehikoinen and the Xing series by Leena Virtanen and Salla Savolainen. Pesonen’s keywords are children’s literature, intersectionality, literary criticism, multiculturalism and representation.

To read Pesonen’s dissertation online or download it as a free PDF, follow this permanent link to the research database of the University of Oulu:

Love, Dreams and Emancipation

Cover design by Anna Vuorinen

In her dissertation, the children’s and youth literature researcher, PhD Myry Voipio studied the historical development of Finnish girls’ literature. Voipio defended her dissertation in 2015 at the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Arts and Culture Studies. The title of her thesis is Emansipaation ja ohjailun ristivedossa. Suomalaisen tyttökirjallisuuden kehitys 1889–2011. The English translation of the title is ‘The Collision of Emancipation and Didacticism. The Development of Finnish Girls’ Literature 1889–2011’. Voipio’s dissertation deals with 17 Finnish girls’ literature novels, which she analyses in their contexts from a feminist viewpoint. Voipio’s keywords are Finnish girls’ literature, emancipation, gender, ideals, norms, feminism and society.

To read Voipio’s dissertation online or download it as a free PDF, follow this permanent link to the research database of the University of Jyväskylä:

‘Rebelling and Longing: The Golden Classics of Girls’ Literature’

The Finnish non-fiction author Sara Kokkonen published and edited a second volume on girls’ literature authors, their work and the way Finnish readers of all ages remember their favourite girls’ literature novels. This non-fiction collection, Kapina ja kaipuu. Kultaiset tyttökirjaklassikot (in English, ‘Rebelling and Longing. The Golden Classics of Girls’ Literature’) was published by Avain in 2015 and it continues Kokkonen’s work and studies about girls’ literature, reader-response research and memories. This time she concentrates on international favourites such as L. M. Alcott, L. M. Montgomery and Jean Webster.

Writing Diaries, Novels and Romance

PhD Vappu Kannas defended her dissertation in 2015 at the University of Helsinki, Department of Modern Languages. Her thesis discusses romance in the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery under the title “The forlorn heroine of a terribly sad life story.” Romance in the Journals of L. M. Montgomery. Kannas’s keywords are L. M. Montgomery, diary studies, autobiography, romance in literature and Canadian literature.

To read Kannas’ dissertation online or download it as a free PDF, follow this permanent link to the research database of the University of Helsinki:

Read Aloud!lue-lapselle

The children’s and youth literature researcher, instructor and freelance critic, docent, PhD Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen has published an important non-fiction work about reading aloud with children. The work, titled Lue lapselle, opas lasten kirjallisuuskasvatukseen in Finnish (‘Read to the Child, a Guide to Children’s Literature Education’) was published by Atena in 2015. In her work, Heikkilä-Halttunen explains how reading aloud helps children develop in different ways, is entertaining also to the adult who reads, and, moreover, improves the well-being of the whole family. Heikkilä-Halttunen’s work states that reading aloud teaches children multiple important skills, such as interaction, sociability, listening and staying at the same, calm place. It also allows children and adults to spend peaceful time together.

Questions about the Aesthetics of Horror in Children’s Culture

PhD Susanne Ylönen defended her thesis at the University of Jyväskylä, Art Pedagogy, in 2015. The title of her dissertation is Tappeleva rapuhirviö. Kauhun estetiikka lastenkulttuurissa (’Fighting Crab-Monster. The Aesthetics of Horror in Children’s Culture’). In her research, Ylönen discusses the aesthetic field of horror through a grid that combines aesthetic and discursive choices. She concentrates on three Finnish picture books: Miinan ja Veikon nyrkkeilykoulu (’Miina and Veikko’s Boxing School’) by Hannele Huovi and Jukka Lemmetty, Vain pahaa unta (’Just a Bad Dream’) by Ville Tietäväinen and Aino Tietäväinen (2013) and Hirveää, parkaisi hirviö (’Horrible, Cried the Monster’) by Suna Vuori and Katri Kirkkopelto (2005). In addition to picture books, Ylönen analyses interview material, including interviews with two picture book authors, two kindergarten teachers and eleven children from a kindergarten. Ylönen’s keywords are horror, aesthetics, children’s culture, picture books and aestheticizing.

To read Ylönen’s dissertation online or download it as a free PDF, follow this permanent link to the research database of the University of Jyväskylä:


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