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Favourite children’s books

Favourite children’s books: Astronautin rusinapulla

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the third book in my archive of inspiring children’s books: a rhyming Finnish poetry book (which unfortunately hasn’t been translated to English) written by one of my favourite children’s book authors, Jukka Itkonen.


Astronautin rusinapulla
Loosely translated: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun
Written by Jukka Itkonen, illustrated by Matti Pikkujämsä

Badge of greatness for playful rhymes and matching visuals


astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaI love, love, love rhymes, and when I first came across the children’s books of Jukka Itkonen, it was literally literary love at first page. The prolific Finnish writer has written multiple rhyming poetry books for children under different themes, and now I will present you one of them: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun. The theme of this collection of poems is food: where it comes from, who makes it and how it is eaten. The poems introduce a number of different characters and their food-related stories. There’s a picky eater, a real culinarista, a secret agent and a pizza baker, just to mention a few. The characters are exhilaratingly recognisable and the choice of words in the poems are sure to give the reader – young or old – the giggles.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaInstead of focusing on fantasies (although Astronaut’s Raisin Bun does feature a superman), the books of Itkonen tend to give a witty spin to perfectly normal things, portraying them from a humorous point of view. As you might remember from the previous book feature, I’m a huge fan of writers who have this kind of realistic yet amusing approach to their stories. 

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaWhen it comes to illustrations, Astronaut’s Raisin Bun is not the only book that Jukka Itkonen and the illustrator Matti Pikkujämsä have collaborated on. And if you ask me, that’s no wonder – the raw brush strokes of Pikkujämsä go really well with the uncomplicated, humorous text. Also the typographic choice of hand-written titles combined with a typewriter font compliments the style of the book well. All in all, I think the written and visual elements of the book compliment each other beautifully, making a great, coherent package.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaastronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaMy favourite poem in the book is about a grandma, who reminisces her childhood in a pizzeria. It was so wonderfully fun that I had to make my own grandma read it, too! To give you a taste of the poems in the book, here’s a snippet of it (in Finnish):

Isoäiti pizzeriassa

Muistot tulvii mieleeni,
ja kerron vähän tästä
minun lapsuudestani
ja maalaiselämästä.

Ennen vanhaan eläminen
oli erilaista.
Ei meille ruokaa lennätetty
kaukaisista maista.

Kirnupiimää hörpittiin
ja syötiin piirakoita.
Ja kun kermaa kirnuttiin
niin siitä tuli voita.

Vanhat ajat, niistä kyllä
riittäis kertomista.
Tarjoilija, olkaa hyvä,
tuokaa pizzalista.

Oh boy. Did I already mention how much I love rhyming poems…?

Children’s book showcase: Hvordan Greger Grinebiter havnet i bitter duell, og alt nesten ble helt rosa

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the second book in my archive of inspiring children’s books, a Norwegian treasure (which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been translated to English) written and illustrated by Camilla Kuhn:


Hvordan Greger Grinebiter havnet i bitter duell, og alt nesten ble helt rosa
Loosely translated: How George The Neighbourhood Stalker Got Into A Duel And The World Almost Turned Rosy
by Camilla Kuhn

Badge of greatness for the hilarious story and lively illustrations


Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu1 This Norwegian book tells a story of an old bitter neighbourhood stalker, whose life revolves around making sure that no-one breaks the rules. He has covered the corridors with warnings and reminders and is always looking for a chance to complain. One day whilst spying on his neighbours from the window, he notices that someone is actually keeping an eye on him. It turns out that another stalker has moved into the same building. This is of course very upsetting, as there can’t be two spoilsports in the same area. To find out who gets to stay and who has to move out, the two stalkers have to compete in who is the best at complaining and being a difficult neighbour.

Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu2
When I realized that this book was made by an author-illustrator, my jaw sort of dropped. Firstly, because the story itself is extremely amusing and well-written (I read the Finnish translationMiten herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä joutui kauhukääkkien kaksintaisteluun ja maailma melkein muuttui ruusunpunaiseksi”. It was great, so applause to the translator!). The humour in the book is very smart, starting from the names of the characters to witty points made about the rules and formalities that anyone who’s ever lived in an apartment building can relate to. Secondly, the illustrations are simply brilliant; I read the book twice, first focusing on the story and then going back to take a more profound look at the images. Each page is full of life, expressions and details that make the story all the more fun. I think Camilla Kuhn really excels in telling an amusing story, both visually and in writing. The story stays close to real life with the events taking place in ordinary locations like a supermarket, but the exaggerated details and little absurdities make it extremely imaginative in all its commonness.

Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu3In terms of colours, the book stood out on the shelf for its fairly muted, earthy colour palette. Whilst reading the book, I wondered if more vibrant choice of colours would have made it even better, making the characters and the environments pop up and draw the reader’s attention. However, I concluded that the muted tones were actually exactly what the story needed; they created the kind of vibe that immediately brings you to the suburbs, where average families, the elderly and a few neighbourhood stalkers live.


Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu4This kind of amusingly realistic stories are totally my cup of tea. Camilla Kuhn seems to have been quite prolific as an author-illustrator, so I will have to find out if her other books have been translated to Finnish or English. Someone, who had reviewed this neighbourhood stalker-book, mentioned that the humour is similar to the one in Erlend Loe’s Kurt-series, so those books should be worth of checking out, too!

Favourite children’s books: Filippa & Company – The Great Escape

I recently took a holiday to visit family and friends in Finland. Although it was a laid-back vacation, I had some things on my agenda; next to going to sauna, swimming in a lake and eating cinnamon buns, I also wanted to make an excursion to a library and devote an afternoon to reading children’s books. I already had some books in mind that I wanted to chase down, and generally I was just curious to see what kind of illustrated treasures I would find on the bookshelves.

Getting to read through a pile of books was really fun, and it also helped me clarify and confirm my thoughts and views on children’s books in general. Now I have a bit more concrete idea of how I would like to develop myself as a storyteller and illustrator. It makes me feel challenged and that, my friends, is quite crucial if you want to avoid getting overly comfortable with your go-to style!

To make a little archive of inspiring children’s books, I decided to make a series of blog posts featuring some of my favourite publications. So, ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the first one in the series:


Filippa & Company: The Great Escape
Original Finnish title: Filippa & Kumppanit: Piano Karkaa
by Marika Maijala and Juha Virta

Badge of greatness for graphic style


Piano Karkaa 1

This book was published by Etana Editions, a small Finnish publishing house that has been producing absolutely beautiful books in the past few years. I have always admired their publications, and now I finally got a chance to take a closer look at one of them. In short, the book tells a story about Filippa and her friends, who find a piano on their yard. All of them have different ideas for how to use the piano; it turns out that next to being an instrument, a piano can also function as a coffee table or a place for a nap. However, as Filippa’s friends are busy multipurposing the piano, somewhere someone is missing his instrument.

Piano Karkaa 5

Piano Karkaa 2
What makes the book so special is the playful graphic style and the bold colour palette that sets the mood for each page. Every page looks different, and I love the loose feeling in the illustrations. This book is a perfect example of how a fully illustrated spread with lots of details can feel somewhat haphazard and yet be beautifully composed at the same time. I find this kind of style really lovely, perhaps because I always tend to go for structured compositions myself. It can be quite challenging to create this kind of full, creative spreads without trying to over-tie your artwork to a grid, so thumbs up to the illustrator Marika Maijala for a job well done!

Piano Karkaa 4

Next to this one, Etana Editions recently published another book called A Year with the Wind (Finnish: Tuulen vuosi), which also looks really lovely. I haven’t gotten a chance to read that one, but concluding from the images online, I could pretty much frame every single spread from it on our walls! So, if you are looking for visually exciting and unique children’s books, the selection of Etana Editions is worth of checking out!

EDIT: Initially I repeated the word “lovely” in this post about six times. Trying not to get too syrupy, I ended up replacing a few “lovelies” with other words…but anyway, this book really is lovely!