Thursday, December 19, 2019

Toppatakin alla on sydän - Tuija Hannula

Toppatakin alla on sydän - Tuija Hannula

Culture. History Manners.

SUBJECT:  In this non-fiction book, different segments of Finnish society, culture, history and manners are broken down into short texts.  This book is ideal for newcomers to Finland  to learn and understand about Finland.

LANGUAGE:  Each section is about 3-5 pages in length. A broad range of topics are covered and discussion questions are found in the back of the book. The text itself is just over 100 pages. While the topics are beneficial to any language level, most of the texts contain grammar and vocabulary suited towards B2 levels. Despite this, I recommend this book to B1 language learners, who will benefit highly from the content with a little bit of extra study.

CONTENT:  This book discusses Finns and non-native Finns who live in Finland. There is much stereotyping of Finns, but in a positive or in a self-deprecating way. At the same time, there is much discussion of people who live in Finland who don't have a Finnish last name and who have traditions and customs other than those traditionally found in Finland - and it welcomes and celebrates these too.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:  This book is a joy to read. While in integration courses, most of the hours are (needfully) devoted to grammar and vocabulary, topics such as culture, society and manners are just as essential to newcomers to Finland. Since there's not enough time to pack this information into an already packed language course, a book like this is absolutely essential reading. It allows readers to learn about Finland and Finns, answers those burning questions in the back of their heads, and gives answers to questions they haven't even formed.

It's this reader's opinion that if you are a newcomer to Finland, you should own: a dictionary, a grammar book and this book. And if you follow up this book by doing the discussion questions, visiting/watching the subjects mentioned throughout the book, then you'll have a well-rounded study in Finland/Finnish and be well prepared to go out into the world - be it to a job, an appointment or even just to the local market.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Seesam (Open Sesame) Award 2019 - Tuija Takala - Review of 2 books - Hyvä päivä and Lauralle oikea #sponsored

The Seesam (Open Sesame!) award is given by Selkokeskus every year since 1992 to a person or company who furthers, advances the development of Finnish selkokirjat and selko-literature. Recipients in the past have been authors, illustrators, translators, publishing houses, libraries and more.

This year's award was awarded in October 2019 at the Turku book fair to Tuija Takala. She is a Finnish language instructor and has written and selko-translated many books in various genres, including classics, poetry, romance and novellas.

In this post, I'll be reviewing two books from Tuija Takala, Hyvä päivä and Lauralle oikea.

Hyvä päivä - Tuija Takala
Anecdotal. Positivity. Thin book.

STORY: This collection of super short stories reflect daily life in Finland and the small moments that count in each day.

LANGUAGE:  Each story is 2 pages in length, as little as 6 paragraphs and are individually packed with thoughts and ponderings that will leave the read with a feeling of comfort and contentment. Since there are such a wide range of stories (28 in all), the ideal language level is anywhere from an A1.2 to a C. An A language learner could pick any story and tackle it in a single sitting and understand it with little grammar and vocab check-up, while a C learner, or even a native Finnish speaker would enjoy simply picking up and reading a story here and there, drawing the enjoyment of the book out. This book has great re-readability, making it easy to go back and find favorite stories and read them again and again.

CHARACTERS:  Every story has a different narrator. They very from a person waiting at a train or bus station, a woman who received a postcard in the mail, to an older man and woman who chat in the yarn. Many stories are genderless and ageless. While this book is aimed at adults, I believe anyone from YA plus would appreciate these stories.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:  Who wouldn't want to read a book, that when you are done reading from it, you are left smiling and feeling good? This book is great for any read, any tiem of the day, any time of the year and has excellent re-readability, making it a great book to own and keep on the bookshelf for years. The short stories are great, can be read quickly, and as a thin book (just over 60 pages), it's great to carry around with you. The book also includes pencil illustrations which add a softness to an already light, enjoyable read. It's always worth reading books by award winners, and this is a great book to start with from Tuija Takala's collection!

Highly recommend!

Thanks to Opike for generously providing this book for review.
You can purchase this book and many more from their website.
You can also find excerpts from the book, discussion questions and exercises on Opike's website!

Lauralle oikea - Tuija Takala
Romance. New adult. Self-discovery.

STORY:  Laura sits at a table with her mother. She tells her mother that she has found "the one." Her mother is reluctant to believe her, considering Laura has had crushes often int he past. On her walk home, Laura thinks about her life from childhood to the present.

LANGUAGE:  Told in first person from Laura's perspective. Set in the near present, 2018, with flashbacks to childhood, school years and working life.

This is a new adult book. In general, it is accessible to a young adult reader, but as Laura grows older into her 20's and focuses on finding a career and her own first apartment, it steps firmly into new adult.

While there is some puhekieli throughout the book, I rate this book as B1.1+. The chapters are short and overall the grammar and vocabulary are accessible to those that have advanced beyond beginner's Finnish but are not yet at a fluent level.

CHARACTERS:  Laura is a regular, average, normal girl and always has been. Her childhood and school years are spent with her mother and two best friends. Laura struggles to find what she's good at, what kind of job is right for her and she is always on the lookout for "the one."

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:  This is a welcome genre romance book to the selkokirja world! If you already read and enjoy romance books in your own native language, this is an excellent transition into selkokirjat. It's great for the new age audience - wondering about potential relationships, experiencing bad relationships, considering whether to continue in school or not, watching as all your friends finish school with you and all go off in different directions, wondering if you'll still see each other and stay friends, trying out living on your own for the first time, wondering what you want to do for a job for the rest of your life, or even the near future. If you are asking yourself these questions now, or if you have ever experienced these in your past, you will most certainly enjoy this book! This is a fun book, a light fluffy read with some modern touches.

Congratulations to Tuija Takala for winning the Seesam award and we look forward to her future selkokirjat!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Reidar Särestöniemen Maailma / Särestöniemi-museo

Rediar Särestäniemen Maailma / Särestöniemi-museo

Non-fiction. Art. Lapland.


Reidar Särestöniemi ((1925 - 1981) was an artist from a small village in Lapland whose art is internationally recognized. The Särestöniemi Museum is located in his family home and studio in Lapland, near Kittilä. A local children's instructor for special needs children contacted the museum and following the idea that "art is for everyone," asked how the museum could be brought to the children. The result is this selkokirja about the artist and his art, so that everyone can learn about him and see his works, even if they can't visit the museum in person.


The language in this book is from A1 - C. 

At just over 100 pages, the book is filled with full page and dual-pages images with chapters on various subjects, including direct quotes from Reidar Särestöniemi. It also includes a small brochure which includes much of the text from the book without the images.

A - In the spirit of art is for everyone, anyone can look through the pages of the book and see Särestöniemi's art and pictures of him, his family and Lapland. Many of the images have bolded text next to them, with questions for the reader to think about the art or topics such as seasons and animals.

B - In addition to the art and images, the book includes short chapters with large font text on various topics, such as Reidar's studies and nature. At just 1-3 pages (containing 1-5 paragraphs), these texts are very accessible to a B level reader.

C - This book contains many direct quotations from Reidar Särestöniemi and he speaks in a heavy dialect. While speaking his quotes out loud may help in understanding better, understanding various dialects requires more upper level knowledge and experience.


Reidar Särestöniemi was born and lived in a small village in Lapland. While the rest of his family were farmers, Reidar was often found shirking his chores and drawing instead. His family supported him and he went on to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and went on to tour the world, sharing his art with people around the world in Europe, Africa and Asia. Even President Kekkonen came to visit his studio in Lapland in 1975 and they shared a sauna together. These are just the facts about Reidar Särestöniemi and much more about his life, beliefs and art can be found in this selkokirja.


This book is for everyone. Art is for everyone and for those who don't have a chance to visit museums, near or far, this is an excellent way to step inside a museum from the comfort of your own living room. This is a good way to learn more about who's who from Finland, and especially northern Finland. The book speaks a lot of nature, especially from Lapland, and contains excellent art and descriptions of nature throughout the year. Art, nature, love, sorrow, homesickness, these are themes that anyone can understand and find within the pages of this book. 

Thanks to the Särestöniemi museum for making this book possible.

The website for the museum can be found here

Särestöntie 880
99110 Kaukonen 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Yösyöttö - Eve Hietamies / Hanna Männikkölähti

Yösyöttö / Eve Hietamies / Hanna Männikkökahti

STORY: Six days after Antti's wife Pia gives birth, she flees in a taxi, leaving Antti helpless and clueless to take care of their baby. Having no choice but to leave his job and take care of his son full-time, Antti's life changes completely as he learns about childcare and life.

This book is a selko-translation of the popular fiction book of the same name by Eve Hietamies, published in 2010. It is the first in a trilogy and can be read as a standalone. Yösyöttö has been turned into a movie, directed by Marja Pyykkö and starring Petteri Summanen. 

LANGUAGE: This contemporary book set in Helsinki is told in first person from Antti's perspective. While a thick book at 148 pages, the chapter length is quite short with each chapter around 3-6 pages and full page illustrations throughout. Much of the book is dialogue, both conversation and Antti's inner thoughts. Themes include father-son relationships, family, joys and hardships in child raising with humor running throughout.

The joy of a selkokirja is that it doesn't have the same appearance and structure of a standard novel. In this case, the full-page black and white illustrations by Ina Majaniemi bring an extra element to the story, enhancing the story to the reader and providing insight into's Antti's world and Finnish daily life. Small details such as socks on a radiator and well-recognizable plaid slippers alongside Antti's expressions and the growth of his son will delight readers and have them flipping ahead to find out when the next illustration will come in the story.

As far as language levels, I rate this a solid B1+. Although it is over 100 pages, the chapter length, vocabulary and grammar make it very accessible to any B level reader. 

CHARACTERS: Antti is 40 years old and successful in his job as a journalist. He is used to a busy work life, travelling around Finland and the globe doing interviews and office work. When he learns that his wife, Pia, is pregnant, he expects that she will stay home and raise the baby while he continues working. While he is knowledgeable in his work, he is clueless when it comes to child raising and everything that comes with it. The adjustment to being a stay-at-home dad is huge and Antti takes help from wherever he can find it. At the beginning of the book, Pia is a mysterious character, simply running off. It is only as the book progresses that the reader learns more about her story and role in the family. The side characters in the book are well developed, many providing a jolt of reality and others bringing humor and hope.

A character list is provided in the front, with names and short descriptions of the main characters and the heavily featured side characters. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:  A new trend in Finnish selkokirjat is the selko-translations of many contemporary popular fiction books. This book is just one of many, and is especially timely, considering the release of the movie based on the second book, Tarhapäivä, in November 2019. Because it is popular fiction, it is not uncommon to see native Finns reading the original series on the bus or in the city, and now selko readers can join in alongside them and keep up to date with current Finnish literature and popular culture and provide an element of integration to all. This is a fun book to read, and because it is B accessible, it doesn't require constant dictionary searching. The story will appeal to readers of all types - women, men, parents, and readers of popular fiction in general. 5/5 stars.

Bonus: The author provides vocabulary cards and reading comprehension questions on her website, Random Finnish Lesson and information about her other books here, including a sample of Yösyöttö.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Marskin Keppi - Tapani Bagge

Marskin Keppi / Tapani Bagge

Short stories. Male buddy comedy. Christmas.

STORY; This collection includes 6 short stories and one longer length short story. Every story features the same two characters, Koskela and the unnamed "minä" narrator. In the stories, normal, mundane events such as changing a tire and fixing a roof go from ordinary to extraordinary with lots of laughs and chuckles. Two Christmas tales feature, which are sure to give an insight into Finnish Christmas culture and traditions, while also providing entertaining reading. The longer "Marskin keppi" (Mannerheim's baton) is a mystery, action, adventure story all wrapped up in one.

Tapani Bagge is a well-known author, having written dozens of books for adults and young adults and is well known for his crime novels. This is his second selkokirja for adults, his first, Alligaattori, features the same duo as in this book.  

LANGUAGE:  The stories in this book are all told in first person format from the narrator's perspective. Most of the short stories are 10 pages or less and include half page and full page illustrations that aid the story. The "Marskin keppi" feature story is around 67 pages in length and is broken down into smaller chapters of 5 pages or less. 

The appeal of a short story collection is that the reader can choose to read any or all of the book. While the 125 page length may be intimidating to some selkokirja readers, the 67 page length feature story alone is worth reading. Alternatively, the two Christmas stories in this collection make ideal reads around the holiday time and are short enough to be read in an evening or two. The four other short stories in this book are excellent to pick up and read over a few sittings, the perfect opportunity to improve the reader's Finnish skills and have a laugh at the same time.

A word of caution to this collection, is that the vocabulary is advanced and there may be many words in a single sentence that require looking up. This may also be followed up by paragraphs that can be read effortlessly, striking a nice balance. Unlike lower level books, where the same vocabulary words are often repeated through the book, this book uses many different words to describe similar items or situations. Based on this, I would classify this is a B2 - C level book, ideal for those already with a firm grasp of the language and looking to expand their vocabulary and comprehension skills. That being said, a B1 reader would be perfectly suited to reading individual stories from this book, though reading the book as a whole may be overly challenging. 

CHARACTERS:  The two stars of this book, Koskela and the "minä" narrator are lovable and laughable male buddies in their fifties, who get themselves into trouble and adventures that leave their wives shaking their heads in disbelief. "Marskin keppi" contains a wider range of side characters, all listed in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, but for the most part, the two main characters are the star actors in this buddy comedy.

This pair may just be Finland's answer to Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is an ideal short story collection to pick up and read a story here and there, without having to sit down and read a 125 page book in at a go. The Christmas stories are ideal to be read every year at holiday time and will keep the reader laughing every year again and again. The "Marskin keppi" feature story is a nice novelette ideal for upper level readers yet not overwhelming at 67 pages. This book is ideal for anyone who enjoys classic male buddy comedies (Grumpy Old Men, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, etc.) and also for the male reader. This is a great choice for the Finnish learner looking to make the leap from B2 to C level. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Avioliittotest - Veera Nieminen / Johanna Kartio

Avioliittotesti (The Marriage Test) - Veera Nieminen / Johanna Kartio - 2019

Romance. East meets west. Family.

STORY: While studying at university, Aino, who is from eastern Finland falls in love with Jussi, who is from western Finland. They decide that she will come to his family's farm and live with them for one month over the summer. Aino is put to the test adjusting to life and manners in western Finland and so is their relationship. In addition to these new challenges, the couple must decide what will happen when the month is up.

This is a selko version of the original book, Avioliittosimulaattori (Marriage Simulation) published by Tammi in 2013. The original was nominated for the Helsingin Sanmoat Literature Prize in 2013 and has been called the most entertaining romance novel of 2013.

LANGUAGE: The stand out language point of this novel is the use of dialect. While adjusting to life in western Finland, Aino faces challenges sometimes understanding what Jussi's relatives are saying! Many Finnish as foreign language readers will empathize with this challenge. But never fear, the author presents the new-to-Aino vocabulary in humorous ways that are explained to the reader at the same time as Aino.

The story is told in diary format, with each day representing each chapter. At 32 days, this translates into 160 pages, which is quite a cut from the original version's 260 pages. Aino tells the story in first person perspective, so reader's follow along from her perspective as she attempts to navigate Jussi's home world. The book is set in modern day, which is a refreshing change from many selkokirja, and includes the use of cell phones and video chats.

Based on the length and dialect used, this book is ideal for a B2.2 reader. However, if a B1 reader is up to the challenge and willing to put in a little more time to look up words and grammar, this is an excellent step into contemporary Finnish fiction. This book will particularly appeal to readers who already enjoy reading contemporary romance novels in their own language.

CHARACTERS: Aino is in her 20's and in the middle of her college career. Her parents are divorced and she keeps in touch with both. Jussi is her most serious relationship. Originally planning to spend the summer with her friends in their summer cabin, she boldly takes the risk of spending one month on a farm, outside her comfort zone just to be with him. Jussi is around the same age and attends the same university as Aino. Unlike her town upbringing, Jussi grew up on the farm with his father, uncle and younger brother. Aino is also his most serious relationship and he helps as much as he can to help her adjust to his family.

The book comes with a handy character guide at the beginning.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: While many selkokirja are originals written by a single author, a welcome trend is the selko-translation of many contemporary Finnish books. This adds an element of integration mentally to the foreign language reader, being able to understand what other native Finns are reading and discussing on the bus or in the newspaper. As a much talked about book when it was first released, this selko published version allows it to enter the spotlight once again, thanks to the adaptation.

5/5 stars

On a side note, I attended a selkokirja event at Oodi library in Helsinki on September 18, 2018 and had the opportunity to listen to Johanna Kartio speak about this book and her work as a selkokirja author. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending these kinds of events in the future!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Kaunon Nuoruusvuodet - Jasu Rinneoja

Kaunon Nuoruusvuodet - Jasu Rinneoja - 2019

Young Adult. Historical Fiction. Village Life.

STORY: This book contains two stories about a boy named Kauno, the first when he is still a small child and the second when he is an older child and teenager.

The author has also written a second selkokirja featuring Kauno as an adult, Kauno ja Sutki.

LANGUAGE: The language in this book is around a B1 - B2 level, and also contains dialect that might be slightly challenging to understand for a reader unfamiliar. The first story is around 60 pages and the second story around 50 pages. The whole book is split into chapters. the text is large with lots of white space and there are also nice black and white illustrations throughout the stories. The story is told through multiple perspectives - Kauno's, his mother's, father's and occasionally even various villagers' perspectives.

I recommend this to readers of level B1 and up.

CHARACTERS: Kauno is the protagonist of the story, and as the title suggest, tells the story of his childhood and youth. Kauno is a very sensitive child, though the book does not go into more medical information than that. His sensitivity is shown through the way he responds or fails to respond to various situations, and in the way his parents raise him and communicate with him.

The illustrations on the cover and in the book are very expressive and the reader truly gets to know Kauno through his adventures.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a great book for young readers, especially middle grade through young adult. I believe that adults will also appreciate reading the book and appreciating the parents' roles and personalities.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Minä odotan sinua - Sanna-Leena Knuuttila

Minä odotan sinua
Minä odotan sinua - Sanna-Leena Knuuttila 2018

Historical fiction. Jatkosota. Women's fiction.

STORY: The story begins in 1940. Veikko has just returned from talvisota and the pair begin to prepare for their wedding. Hilkka rejoices in her new life as a married woman and their new life on the farm. However, in 1941 war breaks out and Veikko must leave. Hilkka must manage the farm with the help of her parents and take care of her soon to be born child.

This is an original story published in 2019. The author has previously published another novel featuring Hilkka and Veikko, Ne lensivät tästi yli. The books can be read together or as standalones without problem.

LANGUAGE: The book is broken down into five parts and includes a dictionary at the front of the book. The grammar is of a B1-B2 level. Readers will benefit from new vocabulary and also familiar vocabulary used in new contexts. The text is large and the pages contain lots of white space. Photographs are included with captions throughout the book and enhance the reading experience. At just over 100 pages, the book provides a well-developed story without being too long.

I recommend this book to readers of B1-B2 level.

CHARACTERS: Hilkka and Veikko are a young married couple with a child on the way. Both have grown up on farmland and have dreams of running their own farm someday. They are both hard working and family is very important to them. Veikko is strong and a good husband and writes letters to Hilkka throughout the book. Hilkka is also strong and hard working but worries about whether Veikko will come back home alive.

The cover of the book features a photograph of the fictionalized couple and throughout the book photos also show side characters or representative photos of men and women at the time the book is set.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a great historical fiction novel published recently (2018). The breakdown of the sections and "chapters" make the book very accessible to selkokirja readers, while the plot keeps readers engaged and interested to learn both about daily life during war-time and also Hilkka's own personal experiences and story. A fresh, eye-opening story from an excellent writer. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta - Johannes Linnankoski

Image result for laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta artemira
Artemira publising, Easy Finnish Reading
selkokirja translation; Anna Mertanen
Finnish Classic. Yli taso. Questions and exercises.

STORY: Originally written in 1905, this book tells the tale of young Olavi. Instead of settling down and staying in his home village, he has the urge to wander restlessly from town to town. He seeks out jobs such as lumberjack, where he risks his life performing dangerous tasks. His restlessness also applies to his relationships, where he falls in love with a young girl from each town and proceeds to leave her as he wanders to the next town on his journey. 

This is considered a Finnish classic, and it reads like one. It is historical, and is filled with old folklore, beliefs and customs and dense in vocabulary.

LANGUAGE: This book is 88 pages (plus extra pages afterwards) and contains short chapters, ranging in length from 1-6 pages. On each page are selected words in italics, and at the bottom of each page are definitions of those words, with the definition also in Finish. The book is split into three sections and there are discussion questions at the end of each section. At the back of the book are exercises related to vocabulary and grammar. The answers to the questions and exercises can be found easily on the publishers website at 

This book is rated by the publisher as C, Vaativa, around 1800 words. As a selkokirja, this is on the longer side, making it ideal for a C level reader and for a B2.2 seeking to make the transition to C level. The grammar exercises in the back are around B1-B2 level, however the vocabulary may be a bit higher level. A C level reader will learn new words easily by reading the definitions at the bottom of each page, but a B1-B2 level reader may still struggle with some vocabulary in the definitions and need to look some words up in a translated dictionary.

My recommendation is B2.2 / C.

CHARACTERS: As our protagonist, we follow the story from Olavi's perspective as he wanders from town to town, meeting young girl after young girl. Instead of real names, each girl is given the name of a flower, reflecting her personality and role in Olavi's life. 

Photos of the flowers that the young girls are named after can be found on the answer key on the publisher's website. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a great way to delve into the world of Finnish classic literature. While it has a slow start, the pacing of the rest of the book is quite fast, and can be read in a reasonably short time. The extra features of vocabulary definitions, discussion questions and exercises make this appealing to the selkokirja reader, who will benefit from reading this style of "Easy Finnish Reading" book. The original book has also been made into movies (1938/1971). Highly recommend. 5/5