Browsing Tag

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…?

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!