Finlandia Junior Prize awarded to children’s book
This year’s Finlandia Junior Prize for children’s and youth literature was given to the only children’s book among the nominees. The winner was Keinulauta ("Seesaw"), written by Timo Parvela and illustrated by Virpi Talvitie. The prize, awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation, is worth EUR 26,000, and is to be divided equally between the author and illustrator.
This year’s prize was chosen from among six nominees by author Jukka Virtanen.
Virtanen found Keinulauta to be "exciting, funny, wise and beautiful". In the book, a solitary child, by the name of Pii, tries to find a friend to sit on the other end of a seesaw. During the search, many thoughts of loneliness, tolerance, and friendship go through the child’s mind.
In his speech announcing the winner, Virtanen was critical of the choice of nominees, in which the entire range of youth literature, from illustrated children’s books to youth novels were put on the same starting line. In Virtanen’s view, they cannot be compared.
He suggested a separate prize for actual children’s books.
Representing the Finnish Book Foundation at the award ceremony, Annamari Arrakoski-Enghardt, head of publishing at Tammi Publishers, called for research on why the winners of the Finlandia Junior Prize do not experience the same sales boost as the winners of the other Finlandia prize categories do.
"In the past six years, only two Finlandia Junior winners have made it to the list of the 20 best-selling books for children and young people, whereas the other Finlandia prizes almost invariably secure a place on the best-seller list."
The winning book was a joint effort from the very beginning.
"I have nothing in mind except a seesaw, from which everything might begin", wrote Timo Parvela to Virpi Talvitie slightly over a year ago. "We started to think who might sit on that board", Talvitie said.
A few days later Parvela e-mailed from Kirkkonummi: "I’ll send this now, in case it might wake something up in your head. -- The other end of the seesaw is empty. It points up toward a treetop or the sky. Pii sits at the other end, sitting and waiting for someone to come and play with her."
On her desk in Hyvinkää Talvitie has large boxes full of coloured chalk. She ponders if it should be a feisty and brave child on the seesaw, or perhaps a bear cub. The illustrator thought that the bear might have a zipper in its fur.
"That was the decisive idea", Parvela says. "What happens when the coat is taken off?"
Timo Parvela wrote the first version of the text in November 2005. He was so afraid of what the illustrator’s reaction might be that he first opened a bottle, and only then checked his e-mail.
"It is interesting and fine, fairly serious subjects and emotions", Talvitie replied.
In a daze of relief Parvela sent off an e-mail anticipating a Finlandia Prize, agreeing to split the money 50-50.