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
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.
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!
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!