Finnish Children’s Books Now Undifferentiated from Foreign Ones, A Positive Development

Finnish Children’s Books Now Undifferentiated from Foreign Ones, A Positive Development

Children’s book illustration from Finland is gaining global attention today. This can be attributed not only to the work of publishing houses but also to the talent displayed by illustrators, according to children’s literature expert and critic Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen.

Presently, domestic illustrated literature is gaining international recognition quickly. Seven Finnish illustrators secured places in the finals of the esteemed illustration exhibition held at the children’s book fair in Bologna, Italy. The works of Sari Airola and Marika Maijala were chosen for an international exhibition that tours the globe post-fair.

The popularity of Finnish picture books can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, Etana Editions, a publishing house that specializes in high-quality visual literature, has built a strong reputation over ten years and secured translation contracts for its books in various languages. Secondly, Finnish illustrators have revolutionized their illustration technique and style, often employing a mix of different techniques, including digital-assisted illustration, which has diluted the national characteristics of picture books.

However, many illustrators still manage to maintain a unique, recognizable style. For instance, Sari Airola’s work in the picture book ‘Oh Vivi!’ presents a coarse chalk illustration style refreshed by brisk, broad lines. Marika Maijala’s ‘Magic Flower’ uses a gouache illustration that reflects a child’s large-scale drawing style, drawing inspiration from both naiveism and expressionism.

Modern picture books rarely portray one iconic prototype of a child. Instead, they often depict a diverse group of children in terms of skin color and other features. This updated image of children is clearly visible in the picture books of Airola and Maijala.

Children’s books have been focusing on emotional skills for several years now. This is a global trend. ‘Magic Flower’ powerfully conveys the importance of providing an environment for growth, whether it’s for a creative child or a slowly maturing seed.

In Airola’s book, the character Viivi feels neglected at home and in daycare, leading her to tell lies of varying degrees. Airola illustrates complex emotional issues with relatable examples. Viivi is not ostracized for her actions, but the situation is discussed with an understanding adult.

The picture book also contains a list of famous liars from fairy tales, stories, and history, including a politician who is unfortunately familiar from world politics, exemplifying the relevance and contemporary nature of the book’s themes.

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