Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tatu, Iiris ja Pääkallomies - Marja-Leena Tiainen

STORY: Tatu, Iiris ja Pääkallomies is a late-YA story full of drama, crime and suspense. Tatu is a 16 year old guy who comes across Iiris, a pretty older girl, at the beach one day. Although he knows she could never be his girlfriend, he decides to follow her on Instagram and get his hair cut at the salon where she works and spend as much time with her as he can. But he notices things that worry him about the guys Iiris seems to know. She doesn't seem to have a good past, she is having problems with her ex-boyfriend and strange men seem to be hanging around her apartment. Then one day something horrible happens. And Tatu might be the key to finding out a solution.

I would recommend this book to older YA's (15/16+) and adults due to the content in the second half of the book. This is the second book from Marja-Leena Tiainen I have read and both are very serious and dark stories. It's a wonderful story and well told and enjoyable to read.

PACE: The book starts slow and the first half of the book is mainly building up to action that happens in the second half. Like a good mystery/crime novel, clues and suspects are presented to allow the reader to make his or her own judgements and try to solve the mystery themselves. The second half picks up quickly, and are action-oriented and leaves the reader wanting to know what happens next.

The chapters are short and each one took me around 10-20 minutes to read, depending on chapter length.

LANGUAGE: The book contains a lot of puhekieli (conversational Finnish), so this is a good opportunity to either learn some more of spoken Finnish or to read a selkokirja which is not written completely in book-Finnish. The vocabulary is not complicated and many words repeat throughout the book, making the second half of the book slightly easier and faster to read. This is a YA book, so there is a lot of vocabulary relevant to teens, and there is a lot of vocabulary relevant to crime, especially in the latter half.

I recommend this book as a challenge to a B1 who has a working knowledge of puhekieli or a general read to a B2 or higher.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: You should read this story because it ticks off so many boxes of a good book. Great characters, books for boys (though girls can of course also enjoy), modern, crime novel, boy meets girl, YA, dark and serious, full of conversational Finnish, good story, and the list goes on. This author is setting the bar high for great modern selkokirjat, and if you had to pick one book off the shelf, I recommend one of hers. Do not be wary even if you find it on the YA/Nuorten shelf. In fact, go out of your way to find one. Highly recommend this book and author. 5/5

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Poika joka katosi - Marja-Leena Tiainen

STORY: 17 year old Hanna lives with her family in a house in a small neighborhood. She goes to school and is best friends with her cousin. Then one day, she gets a call from her mom. Her 15 year old brother Mikko is missing. No one has seen or heard from him. No one knows what has happened to him. As days, weeks and then months pass, Hanna tries to find out what happened on the night he went missing. At the same time, she tries to lead a normal life with school and friends and at home. Is Mikko still alive somewhere? Grief and hope are key themes in this novel aimed at YA readers.

PACE: The pace varies through the novel. There are slow moments where Hanna processes her emotions and fast moments where events happen over an evening or weekend. The chapters are very short, so reading goes quickly.

I read each chapter in around 5-15 minutes.

LANGUAGE: The language here is easy and the book can be read and understood without looking anything up, as long as you understand a few key words to the story.

I recommend a minimum of A2 for a small challenge and a minimum of B1 for a more lighter read.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS: Marja-Leena Tiainen Is an author of many books, not just selkokirjat, so this would be a great introduction to her novels in general. This is an excellent book for a YA reader (13+), keeping in mind that this is quite a dark novel, in terms of the things Hanna and her family go through. (There are references to drinking and the idea of Nikko being a victim of crime, for example). I recommend this to adults also. The short chapters are great for those with less time to read and the themes in the novel are equally applicable to adults as to teens.

I highly enjoyed this book and read each chapter eagerly to find out about Mikko and Hanna and the rest of their family.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rautatie - Juhani Aho / Pertti Rajala

STORY: This is a classic Finnish novel from 1884 by one of the first writers to write in Finnish.

Matti and Liisa are a couple that live in a cabin in the middle of the woods far away from everything. They hear rumours that nearby a railroad is being built. They have no idea what a railroad or a train looks like or how it works. One day they decide to go experience the railroad firsthand.

The story is filled with many Finnish mannerisms (such as sauna and communication) and many comedic moments between the husband and wife.

PACE: This is a short book at 87 pages, and is broken down by chapters of about 7-8 pages each. There is often repetition in words and conversation and ideas, so the book reads fast, in spite of it being originally written long ago. Even though the book reads fast, the story itself is slow-paced, as few events occur over a long period of time. For example, many pages may be spent describing milking the cow, walking through the woods or even just thinking. This is an easy book to pick up and put down or to read straight through.

I read each chapter in about 20-30 minutes, including looking up vocabulary in a pocket dictionary.

LANGUAGE: The vocabulary and grammar is easily understood, even if you don't understand every word or how certain grammar works. There is a lot of repetition of words and phrases, so new words can be learned by review or figured out through context. The "translator" deserves much credit for making this classic accessible to readers; I can imagine the original to be much more challenging. After reading this version, I believe the original would be a lot easier to read and understand. 

I used a pocket dictionary while reading this book, and learned some new vocabulary while reading. My dictionary didn't have every word, but those it lacked I was able to figure out or guess from context and it did not get in the way of reading or understanding the story at all.

I recommend a level of at least B1.1 to read this book.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a Finnish classic and therefore a must-read. It is filled with Finnish history and culture and descriptions of nature. The comedic situations are very enjoyable and you will laugh out loud. It's a reasonably easy read but with enough new words that you will learn something through reading. I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 Reasons why you should read selkokirjoja

1. They are small and thin books. You could borrow 5 from the library and it would still take up less space than 1 traditional hardback.

2. They are short. Most selkokirjat are around 100 pages or less. If you don't have a lot of time to read, this is a great option. If you are intimidated by reading a whole book in Finnish, with selkokirjat you are done before you know it!

3. They are modern. Nowadays you won't find a lot of selkokirjat with stories that are lessons in disguise or dumbed down or cheesy plots from the 50's. These are BOOKS. With PLOTS. There are crime novels, modern romance, serious drama. You'll even find many YA (young adult/teen) selkokirjat.

4. They are written by pros. If you've ever browsed through a list of selkokirjat, you'll find that for the most part, they are all written or in some cases "translated" by the same group of authors. So you can go back to the same authors in new books and know what to expect. You'll know their writing style and grammar and can trust their experience.

5. Short chapters. Most of the selkokirjat I have come across all have one thing in common. Short chapters! You don't have to devote hours at a time to reading these books (unless you want to of course). You can easily read a bit, learn a few new words, gotten into the story, and then put the book down to breathe and take a break before continuing.

6. Fast translations. First if all, you don't really need to look anything up in a dictionary while you are reading if you don't want to. That's perfectly ok. But if you do, in today's modern world you can get translations instantly from websites, apps, and even Google image search.

7. It's a great way to learn Finnish. You can learn new vocabulary, figure out grammar, and all while reading a good book.

8. Finnish culture and literature. Most selkokirjat are written by Finnish authors. Many selkokirja versions of classic Finnish literature are available. Sure, you might find a finnish version of a classic British novel, but selkokirjat are excellent means to bulking up on your knowledge if Finnish history, culture and literature.

9. Non-fiction. Selkokirjat are not just novels and fiction. Nowadays a vast range of non-fiction titles are available, everything from cooking to financial matters to learning computer software and information for families.

10. They're free. This is my own little plug as a librarian. Finland's libraries are filled with shelves of selkokirjat. You don't need to spend lots of money buying them, when you can borrow them from the library and take your time reading them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


In this blog you will find reviews of selkokirjat (easy-to-understand Finnish books) from the perspective of an immigrant to Finland. I believe that selkokirjat are underappreciated and many people are hesitant to pick one up, borrow or read one based on false misconceptions or complete lack of information about selkokirjat in general or reviews of specific titles. I am here to break any misconceptions and to provide reviews of specific titles. While you might find a book review of two of selkokirjat, they will most likely be written by a native Finnish speaker. This blog will provide reviews from an immigrant to Finland, someone to whom the book's audience is often intended. Therefore, it is my belief that these reviews will be more applicable to potential readers. While selkokirjat have a wide range of audience (Finnish as non-native language, those with reading disorders, those with physical challenges such as vision disabilities, etc.), this website is focused on selkokirjat and Finnish as non-native language audience. All books I review will be from my local library system in Oulu, Finland.

A bit about me
I am a native English speaker and have lived in Finland since 2011. My current language level (as determined by YKI test from two years hence) is B2.2. When I read a selkokirja I look up most, but not all, of the words I don't know while reading. I have a Master's degree in Library and Information Science and specialize in Reader's Advisory.