Sunday, May 17, 2020

Helsingin Alla - Maria Turtschaninoff, selkomukautus Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola #sponsored

Helsingin Alla - Maria Turtschaninoff, selkomukautus Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola

Fantasy. Middle grade. Hidden city.

STORY: Alva is a young girl living in Helsinki. She was adopted when as a young child and doesn't remember her parents. One day she begins receiving messages, telling her to "remember." She tries as hard as she can, but she cannot figure out what she is meant to remember. One day, she comes across a strange man on the street who tells her about a city underneath Helsinki, called Alistadi (ali = under, Stadi = slang for Helsinki; the book's title is a more grammatically formal way to say the same). Alva is forced to make a choice to stay in normal Helsinki and continue her summer vacation plans or to run away to this mysterious hidden city that could be full of danger and adventure. When her classmate Joel follows along behind, the three begin an adventure of good vs evil.

This is a fantastic fantasy book and a welcome genre addition to the selkokirja world. Full of glitter and magic and fairies and creatures will tails and attitude, palaces and kings and traps and adventure.

LANGUAGE: 126 pages, 28 chapters and a cast of characters list at the front of the book. Contemporary time and setting, with the addition of a magical city beneath Helsinki. The book uses a lot of repeated words, mostly related to magic, so the learning and comprehension curve is light, making this book accessible to as low as an A1.3 reader.

The original book is 493 pages, so clearly a lot of editing had to be done to cut it down to 126 pages and with selko-language updates. I have not read the original, but I did not notice any major gaps where I felt anything important was missing. My local library considers both editions of the books to be young adult books. While there is some romance in the book, it's very light, so I would consider this edition appropriate for mature middle grade readers.

CHARACTERS: Alva is a school aged girl getting ready for summer vacation. Nide is a handsome troll with a leather jacket and a tail. Joel is Alva's classmate and practices parkour in his free time. Maybe this summer he will dare to ask Alva out on a date to the local cafe.

Other characters include a king, guards and other magical creatures.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This book is great for any fantasy read in their own native language. While a bit more mature than the first few Harry Potter books, this book will suit well to fans of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Alice in Wonderland (not the Disney version), and readers of Holly Black or Francesca Lia Block. One of Maria Turtschaninoff's other fantasy novels, Maresi, was released as a selkokirja in 2018 and if you like one, then you'll quite likely enjoy the other. As a bonus, the cover of the book is gorgeous, especially when you open in so the front and back cover are both visible. Make sure to read this one in public, while holding it up, people will want to know what you are reading!

Thanks to Opike for generously providing this book for review! You can purchase this book and more from their website.  #sponsored

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Side by Side Readalong - Ensimmäinen murhani - Leena Lehtolainen / Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola

 Today's post is a bit different. Not long ago, I read Leena Lehtolainen's Ensimmäinen murhani for a book club. I couldn't decide if I wanted to read the translated into English version by Owen F. Witesman or have a go at the selkokieli version by Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola. I decided to reserve both from the library and read whichever came first. Well, they both arrived at the same time. So I decided, I'll read them both side by side and see what the experience was like. I was mostly interested in finding out if I preferred one version to the other and if I could, as the reader, solve the mystery of whodunnit faster in one book than the other. I also wondered, if I continued the reading the series, which version I would choose to read the rest of the books in.

Leena Lehtolainen first wrote the Finnish-Swedish book in 1993. The English version was published in 2012 and the selkokirja was also published in 2012. The English version of the book I read is 242 pages and 14 pages. The selkokirja version was 149 pages and 25 chapters.

For a little background information, Ensimmäinen murhani is the first in a series of crime novels starring police detective Maria Kallio. Maria Kallio is the only woman in her precinct and in this first book, she is put to the test when she is placed in charge of investigating a potential murder of a singer when he and the rest of his choir group are staying at a Villa in Vuosaari, Helsinki.

I stated reading one chapter at a time of each. In the beginning the stories and content were basically the same. The biggest difference between the two books is that the selkokirja version retains the victim's name, Jukka Peltonen, while the English translation changed the character's name to Tommi Peltonen. The strange thing is, his was the only name that was changed amongst all of the other very Finnish sounding names. The main difference in the content is that the selkokirja edited out extra unnecessary details by condensing conversation from side characters, while meanwhile retaining the characteristics of the speakers and conversations. Reading the chapters one by one side by side soon came to a halt, when  police detective, Maria Kallio interviews each of the choir singers that were at the villa. While the English version covers all of the interviews in a single chapter, the selkokirja separated the interviews into 4 separate chapters. From there on, the books stayed mostly side by side and the edits in the selkokirja continued to be mostly of the same sort, condensing conversations or details while still retaining the atmosphere and characteristics of the characters, settings and events. The English translation include a cast of characters in the back of the book and the selkokirja did not, presumably because the Finnish names might sound unusual to foreign readers.

Did I solve whodunnit faster or easier in one book than the other? Admittedly, no, the character I suspected was not the murderer, and I was leaning towards this one particular character in both books. Here's to Leena Lehtolainen, who can spin a great crime mystery, have a fully resolved ending and still fool the reader! And hat's off to Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola and Owen F. Witesman for being true to the story and leading the reader in the same directions.

Which version did I prefer? In this case, there was no definite winner. Each book had it's individual pros and cons. In the English version, I didn't care for the victim's name change and I could definitely tell that some of the English translation didn't convey the "Finnish-ness" of many moments and situations that came across smoothly in the selko version, being still written in Finnish and able to be written without explanation or lack of semantic translation. The plus side is that since it was written in my native language, English, I didn't need to put the book down to consult a dictionary when I came across an unfamiliar word.  On the other hand, with the selkokirja, I did have to look up words and take moments out from reading. But, on the positive side, I was able to learn some new words and keep my Finnish-language brain working and activated during my free time. Reading the book also gave me confidence as a Finnish learner and reader, as I was able to read this adult fiction book of over 100 pages without difficulty.

I do have to point out here, that about half the time I read about events in the English book first and "re-read" them in the selkokirja, and the other half of the time, I read the Finnish selkokirja version first and followed up with the English. Reading the English first, definitely made coming across new vocabulary in the Finnish version easier. Reading the Finnish selkokirja first allowed me to get a grasp of the bigger picture of events and conversations so that when I "re-read" the same English book's chapters, it was mostly just filling in small details. It was rather like, when you see a movie in your native language with Finnish subtitles. Sometimes you might read the subtitle and laugh at a joke or react to a comment in the subtitles before the joke or comment even happens seconds later in the movie.

So in conclusion, I really didn't have an overall preference. I got a great story out of the English one but at the cost of some untranslatable Finnish and a random name change. I got just as great a story out of the Finnish version, and I was able to learn and read at the same time in my free time, but it admittedly does use some brain muscles when reading in a foreign language as opposed to reading in one's native language.

So if I continue to read the series, which will I read? First I looked up how many books were available in each version. As a selkokirja, there are 6 more books available and I was delighted to find out that they are all selko-translated by Leena Kaivosoja-Jukkola, who also worked on the fist book. The English version has the next 10 books available. Again, we are seeing here different pros and cons. Different formats (do I want to read the physical book or a Kindle e-book?), there are price differences between them (The English version is cheaper as an e-book, but more expensive if I want a physical book, plus the cost of shipping. The selkokirja version is a bit more expensive, as are most books in Finland compared to US or UK prices, but many companies often sell "book packets" where they include 3 or more books of the same genre or type in one package and sell them at a lesser cost. Then again, my library has 4 of the selkokirja versions available immediately and only up to book 6 in order in the English version.) An interesting thing to point out, is that both the English version and the selkokieli version took me about the same time to read. I supposed it comes down to the English version being longer but in my native language and the selkokirja being in Finnish, but shorter.

Readers and Finnish learners, I have to repeat what I said before. I enjoyed both versions and it really comes down to mood reading, and whichever I am more drawn to reading at the time. Overall I enjoyed both and had a great time reading them both side by side! I recommend that you try this out someday yourself, and if not reading a whole book, at least comparing a few chapters. In this reader's opinion, it's great that we have the option to choose! Many Finnish writers are popular worldwide and translated into many different language. Selkokirja writers are also picking the best of the best to make them available to readers who are not quite ready to dive into the original native Finnish (or Finnish-Swedish) version. And I thank all the translators in Finland and around the world for making this possible.

Now this reader is signing off, asking you to read more books! Read more selkokirja! And read more books in your own language too! Simply stated, read more! :)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Masi Tulppa: Pääsy Kielletty! - Jari Mäkipää, selkomukautus Riikka Tuohimetsä #sponsored

Masi Tulppa: Pääsy Kielletty! - Jari Mäkipää, selkomukautus Riikka Tuohimetsä

Children's. Babysitters. Summer vacation.

STORY: It's the first day of summer vacation and Masi has very important plans: play his video game, watch his favorite tv series and work on his comic book. When his parents decide to hire babysitters for him, it's up to him to come up with a plan to send the babysitters away, make his parents change their minds and get back to his summer plans!

This was a fun story, especially for middle grade kids. It reminded me of Astrid Lindgren stories where the kids get into trouble all over town or the Home Alone movies series.

CHARACTERS: The characters in this book are hilarious and very memorable. Masi himself represents every kid during summer when school is out and it's time to spend time on those projects that school gets in the way of. Every single one of his babysitter's (and there are many) have their own personalities and way of behaving and talking that are completely believable. 

In addition to the story, this book is packed with black and white pencil illustrations. They are very cartoon-like or comic-like, so the features are exaggerated and really make the characters burst to life from the page. 

LANGUAGE: This book is told in third person from Masi's perspective, but we read a lot of his thoughts and there is a lot of dialogue between him and other characters. Masi thinks and speaks and acts like a kid and the vocabulary is representative of that. There is a lot of "puhekieli" and the grammar point in this book goes to the verbs. Because of these, and the length of the book (74 pages, 14 chapters) I give this book an A2.1+ level rating. In a lower rating, the author/translator might use the same verb over and over, but in this book, similar actions are described using a variety of verbs. This is great for expanding one's reading comprehension and vocabulary build-up but does increase the difficulty level. 

This book is a selko translation of a book and series of the same name. While the original book is also a middle grade book, this version is much more accessible, not just to selko readers but to all readers in general. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a fantastic read for middle grade readers. It is funny and believable and I believe that all readers, regardless of background, could identify with Masi. This would be a great book for teachers to share and read aloud in class. Parents and their children would enjoy discussing Masi and his ingenious plans. It's also a great book to just curl up with and read and dream of summer. It's modern and fresh yet also timeless. It also has great re-readability, so it's worth having a copy to own on your own bookshelf at home! Pick up a copy today!

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 and illustrations from the book on Opike's website!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Odotan aurinkoa - Tiina Valkendorff, Päivi Ruutiainen & Anna Louhensalo (toim.)

Odotan aurinkoa / Tiina Valkendorff, Päivi Ruutiainen & Anna Louhensalo (toim.)

Selkokirja. Immigrants. Non-Fiction.

DESCRIPTION: This book is made up of essays from immigrants to Finland from the Middle East and Africa. 

LANGUAGE: Each essay is around 6-8 pages with photos, large font and lots of white space. Each essay is broken down into subsections such as food, the future, and advice to immigrants and native Finns. Each person lives in different places in Finland and came to Finland via different means and routes. They are all in their 20's and have lived in Finland around 3 years. 

This book includes the use of present tense, past tense (simple past and past perfect) and future tense when describing each person's life. It uses singular and plural and many different declensions / endings. The vocabulary in this book will be familiar to any immigrant who has moved to Finland or had to learn to tell about themselves in Finnish. Based on this content, I recommend this book to readers of all language levels, though A2+ will benefit the most, reading this book at the time they have been living in Finland and their own language level compared to the authors' in the book.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a good book for any reader to gain perspective into the life of an immigrant and learn about different cultures. This is a must read for any teachers and employers of S2 language learners and friends and family too. Immigrants will enjoy reading this book to find similarities and differences from their own experience and opinions. The texts may benefit early language level immigrants to learn how to phrase or write things about their own lives.  The language is easy enough for almost any language level to understand, making it very accessible and beneficial to all. As a bonus, this book can be read for free as a PDF at the address below. This is a great way to get to know the book, format and content, before getting a print copy for yourself!

Highly recommended. 5/5

This book is availble in print from the library and bookstores, but is also availble to read for free as an e-book here:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Kierrän vuoden - Tuija Takala #sponsored

Kierrän vuoden / Tuija Takala
Poetry. Seasons. A poem per week.

DESCRIPTION: Starting in January and ending in December, this book has one poem for every week of the year. 

LANGUAGE:  The poems are short and contain vocabulary related to weather, sensory information and holidays. The poetry section is 86 pages long and includes full page photographs for every month. The back of the book has discussion questions and activities for each poem. 

Although the poems sometimes includes vocabulary that is not common in everyday life and so may be unfamiliar even to an upper level reader, I recommend this book to all selkokirja readers A1 and above. Many of the poems are as short as 3 - 4 lines making them very accessible in a short time to any selkokirja reader and allowing short-term gratification in terms of both comprehension and enjoyment of reading. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: There are very few selkopoetry collections, this is one worth getting. While many year-round poetry collections in any language are geared towards children, this is written for adults (though many are also child-friendly!), making it the perfect book to curl up with in an armchair. It's a nice book to pick up once a week, or even once a month and read 4 poems in one sitting. Highly recommend! 5/5

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 and photographs from the book on Opike's website!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Mielensäpahoittaja - Tuomas Kyrö / Ari Sainio

Mielensäpahoittaja - Tuomas Kyrö / Ari Sainio

Hilarious. Anecdotal. Popular fiction.

STORY: "The Grump" begins his first story complaining about the snow, the treats banks offer during their opening events and useless advice from his son. In the following 40 stories, he goes off on a wide variety of topics from queuing, getting older, music, Christmas with the family and much more. 

Mielensäpahoittaja (the original book) came out in 2010 and has since become a nationwide phenomenon, resulting in at least 5 fiction titles and 3 non-fiction titles featuring the same character. In addition, there have been 2 movies and a television series based on the character.

LANGUAGE: Don't be intimidated by the 132 pages in this book, because it contains 41 chapters, all of which are around 2-3 pages each. They are all packed with hilarity that will leave the reader laughing out loud and looking for the closest person to share quotes from the book. There is no dialogue in the book, as everything is explained from the Grump's memories. The grammar and vocabulary are not too complex, and it's not even necessary to look up every single word, because context explains many more difficult words clearly. The grammar is sometimes a bit on the advanced side. Although readers can tell that the Grump likely speaks in a dialect and in a manner that's probably a bit old-fashioned, this is demonstrated well through the timing and pacing and stories themselves, along with the tradition opening to every chapter, "kyllä, minä niin mieleni pahoitin." (According to the English translation of the book is something along the lines of I certainly got myself upset and all worked up...) There are a lot of cultural references in the book, from newscasters of days gone by and hockey players and so forth. This is a great way to learn about famous Finns, but it's not necessary to be knowledgeable of who they are while reading the book - the humor is valid, regardless. 

Because of the grammar and humor level of the book, I rate this as a B1+. The higher one's language level (B2, C), the more humor they will get out of the book, but this is certainly accessible to many selkokirja readers. Even an A level reader could select a story or two and with a bit of vocabulary look-up and a grammar question or two, and could get enjoyment out of this book.

CHARACTERS: "The Grump" is the narrator of the book, told in first person. We never learn his name or precisely where he lives though it is clearly not in "the big city." He is around 80 years old and experiencing more signs of getting older, though that doesn't stop him from driving his beloved Escort or going cross-country skiing. He lives alone, his wife and best friend have passed on, and his son lives with his wife and children some distance away (in Helsinki, presumably). The Grump experiences his world through the people he interacts with every day, from his doctor, his neighbors, shop salesmen, taxi drivers, and also through his own opinion of his neighbors and people around him. 

The humor itself is very blunt and direct and raw. The Grump says anything that's on his mind, whether it's true or not, and typically is unfavorable. It is the privilege of people when they reach this age that they can do so, and secretly many other people around them agree with the things they say, even if they don't dare to say them out loud! 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a hilarious book that almost everyone will enjoy. It's a modern classic in Finnish literature and culture and it's fantastic that it has been selko-translated so that selkoreaders can enjoy the stories along with the rest of the nation. It's been translated into many languages including Swedish, Danish, Estonian and English, but it's worth reading the Finnish (selko-) version first, because the Finnish humor and vocabulary will come through best that way. 

Hilarious book that had me laughing out loud and was a big page-turner. I sped through the book to find out what The Grump would be up to next and was sad when the book ended and there were no more stories. Highly recommended, 5/5 and thanks to Ari Sainio for making this book possible.

Juha - Juhani Aho #sponsored

Juha / Juhani Aho / Tiina Saarelainen

Classic. Love Triangle. Plot twist.

STORY: Juha is an older man, living in a small village with his wife, Marja. Marja is much younger than Juha and beautiful. Lately they have not been getting along. Marja has been calling Juha names and she has been living for awhile in a small house that Juha built for her. When a young, strong, foreign man passes through the village on business and stays the night with Juha and Marja, a love triangle forms that threatens to tear their marriage apart. 

Juhani Aho is famous for writing the story Rautatie (Railroad), also available in selkokirja format from Opike press, in 1905. Juha was published years later in 1911 and still remains a classic today. The tale is particularly apt, as it is set it what was then Finland under Swedish rule, and also set partly in Russian Karelia. 

LANGUAGE: The story itself is 83 pages long with additional pages of grammar exercises at the end. A great reason to read books from Artemira press is that on the bottom of every page are difficult words with definitions in selkokieli, so there's no need to even have a dictionary while reading. This makes reading their books a more relaxing and smooth experience as opposed to feeling like one is studying while reading. Even though this is a classic, it reads like a modern selkokirja - there is lots of dialogue, but no puhekieli or dialect (unless explained in the vocabulary section). At the end of each chapter are 2 - 3 reading comprehension questions. These are a good way to make sure that the reader understood what happened during the chapter before moving onto the next. The beginning chapters are long at around 5 - 10 pages in length, but the later chapters are shorter at 3 - 5 pages in length. The answers to all of the reading comprehension questions and grammar exercises can be found on the publisher's website.

This book is rated a B keskitaso (around 1200 words) by the publisher and this reader agrees. Based on the page length and reading comprehension this book is ideally suited to a B2.1+ level. While a B1 level could certainly read this, they may find themselves looking up words not covered in the definitions at the bottom of the page, or looking up those same definitions for extra help.

CHARACTERS: This book is told in third person from the perspective of three characters. Juha begins the book, an old man who loves his wife and live in a small village in the forest with a cow and trees and river nearby. Marja is his young wife, who has never known any other life than with Juha and finds herself young and beautiful while living out her days with an old man who has lost his looks and walks with a limp and bow-legs. When travelers pass by she dreams of the lives and stories of places she has never seen. The third character is a businessman named Shemeikka, passing by Juha and Marja's home. Young and strong, the couple is charmed by his stories and words.

While this is a classic book, the love triangle that exists between the three can be seen in contemporary books and movies and even in real life today. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: Juhani Aho is a classic and very well known author in Finnish literature. This is a good story and contains a plot twist that alone makes the story worth reading. More than this book itself, I recommend checking out any books from this publisher, Artemira. They have Finnish selkokirja in three difficulty levels from a variety of authors, so finding the perfect combination of plot, author and reading level is easy. They can be purchased as print books or PDF versions at two different price levels. For a review of one of their difficult level books, check out my review of Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta by Johannes Linnankoski. 

Thanks to Artemira for generously providing this book for review. 
You can buy a copy of Juha from their website here.
Check out other books from Artemira press from their website here.