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The Kalevala: Tales of Magic and Adventure
by Kaarina Brooks & Kirsti Mäkinen
Illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin
AGES: 8 & Up
PAGES: 200
SIZE: 9.25" x 9"
RIGHTS: NA English
PRICES: US $22.95, Cdn $29.95
HARDCOVER: 978-1-897476-00-0


Selection of a feature article about The Kalevala: Tales of Magic and Adventure, interviewing Kaarina Brooks



Pirta magazine -  Sirpa Huttunen

"Suomen lasten Kalevala was on display at the Otava pavilion at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2003, when the idea of having it translated into English was born. The realization of this project took all of six years.

“The editor of Simply Read Books contacted me in the summer of 2006 and asked if I wanted to translate the book into English. Of course I was interested!” Kaarina Brooks relates. The Canadian publisher had thought long and hard about his decision. After all, it was a question of a huge, expensive undertaking. And following that, the completion of the project naturally took its own time.

“But it was worth the wait to get something this good,” enthuses Eila Mallin from Otava. “When it is a question of a book such as this, one even has to consider whether there are going to be other epics, classical fairy tale anthologies, etc. from other countries published in the same year. Each ‘great work’ has to have its own place in the publishing program.”



Article in The Scandinavian Press, Winter  2010

"Today a Finnish family may not be intimately familiar with the Kalevala but it is constantly reminded of it through hundreds of products, including a harvester and an ice breaker, bearing names relating to Kalevala. When you see the beautiful new book it is hard not to join the heroes from the Finnish epic, in their incredible adventures and battles for love, revenge, truth, and the mysterious Sampo, the wellspring of eternal wealth and happiness!" 


Review by Beth L. Virtanen, PhD, Finnish North American Literature Association


Simply Read Books has produced an English children’s version of the Kalevala titled Kalevala: Tales of Magic and Adventure. It is a handsome edition, written by Kirsti Mäkinen, Division Head at the National Board of Education of Finland and distinguished lecturer of Finnish language and literature at the Helsinki Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu High School. Accomplished translator and illustrator of three texts of Finnish folklore for children, Kaarina Brooks has provided the sensitive translation of Mäkinen’s text.

The edition is accompanied by full-color illustrations provided by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin who is a graduate from Art College and has worked in illustration since the 1980s. While not all illustrations are in full color, the majority, especially those connected with the significant moments within the Kalevala story, are vivid and inescapably beautiful.

These illustrations include images of Joukahainen sunk in the bog by Vainämoinen’s verse, the juxtaposition of the beauty of Aino next to Vainämoinen’s ancient personage, a spectacular illustration of the Sampo emerging from the forge at the hands of Ilmarinen and his crew, and the resolute mother of Lemminkäinen raking the pieces of his body from the River of Tuonela and many others.

Originally published in the Finnish language as Suomen Lasten Kalevala, this text draws on the 1849 edition of the Kalevala, the final long version by Elias Lönnrot which incorporates changes added after the first edition which was published in 1835 in a print run of only 500 copies. With the Kalevala’s runo one: lines one to fourteen as the headpiece, this edition, incorporates both prose and verse translations in a manner that provides a comprehensible text for a modern young reader. The edition preserves in part the traditional kalevalameter with each line containing eight beats and four trochees while also making the verse more accessible to a young and/or nonacademic audience.

The text itself is a combination of verse and prose whose arrangement is discussed below. Here, I must mention the sensitivity of the translation and the beauty of both the prose and poetic inclusions in the text. While making the text accessible to its English-language audience, Kaarina Brooks has also preserved a crisp image of the actors and the decisiveness of the action as well as the urgency of the Finnish epic tale that has been well-composed by Kirsti Mäkinen.

As we are aware from the word lasten in the original title, the text was intended to serve the needs of a young readership via its more accessible language which opens up possibilities in the international market to bring the Kalevala to a general readership who is interested in a fine example of one of the world’s greatest epics.

With this orientation in mind, then, I proceed to discuss the arrangement of the text. It is presented with a prologue which explains the origins of the text and the historical and poetic context of the work followed by twenty chapters. The body of the text is followed by a glossary that defines who each character is and provides a pronunciation key to assist non-Finnish readers to manage an approximation of the sounds of the Finnish language.

In the twenty chapters are presented the Creation of the World, the Singing duel of Vainämoinen and Joukahainen, Aino’s fate, Joukahainen’s Revenge, Vainämoinen in Pohjola, Vainämoinen’s Wounding of his Knee with an Axe, Forging the Sampo, Lemminkäinen and Kyllikki, Lemminkäinen in Pohjola, Lemminkäinen in Tuonela, Vainämoinen’s Journey to Tuonela, the Rival Courtship of the Maid of Pohjola, the Wedding in Pohjola, Lemminkäinen’s Odysseys, Unfortunate  Kullervo, Forging the Golden Maid, the Men of Kaleva go on a Sampo Raid, Birchwood Kantele, Louhi’s Revenge, and Marjatta and the King of Karelia. I present the chapter contents here so that the experienced reader of the original longer version can observe the selections made in this version. For the inexperienced reader, I note that the central and significant sections of the original work are presented in the text.

The method of presentation of the text itself is ingenious. The pages are nearly square and of a sufficient size that a single leaf can contain a block of prose text and a selection of related verse presented either in the inner or outer margin. In addition, the pages are adorned in such a way as to unify the two-page spread by continuing the illustration from the left to the right across both pages with the text amply spaced and transposed about the unifying objects.

As I look across the two-spread of pages fourteen and fifteen, two pages that are representative of the overall quality of the text, I view three panels of text. In the furthest left margin is lines 223-228 of Runo one from the Kalevala. The verse is presented in two stanzas of six lines each, all in what appears to be ten-point italicized Times New Roman font. Beneath it, almost slipping from the page is an iron egg, the seventh egg laid by the duck and from which the world is born. To the right of the verse on the left hand page is located the main text of the prose narrative in twelve-point non-italicized font, two sections separated by a golden swirl, and beneath the lower section of text are two golden eggs. Stretching onto the right hand page are four more eggs, arranged as though to push the text block on the right-hand page over to make room for the focal images which tie together the diagonal path of eggs across the pages in impressive artistry. Above and in the furthest right upper corner, almost escaping from the top of the page, flies the sleek duck who laid the eggs upon Ilmatar’s knee. The grey iron egg anchors on the lower left, almost slipping from view, and the golden eggs fairly glow across the pages, connecting the eye to the handsome duck that soars in the upper right.   

Much care has gone into the preparation of this manuscript, from the selection of primary material and the careful creation of the primary text, to its presentation in both verse and prose, to the inclusion of fabulous art, to the layout and artistry of the page design. Nothing here has been left to chance or accomplished by accident. It is a beautiful, well-designed, well-crafted sensitively translated rendition of the text that is accessible to the general reader, but pleasing especially to a youthful audience.


 Awarded a White Ravens Label at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

“A particularly generously and carefully printed book, which everybody will enjoy taking in their hands” – White Ravens


Resource Links - Thematic Links: Epic Poetry; Finland; Tales of Creation

The Kalevala is the Finnish national epic. Originally compiled from oral sources, poems and folklore in the mid-1800s, the stories tell of Creation and the origins of Earth. This edition is a prose retelling of The Kalevala, and contains excerpts from the original runes that were used to compile the stories. The book is illustrated throughout with delicate and detailed pictures by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin. 

This beautiful volume is perfect for sharing with a class, and is an excellent tool for comparing and contrasting with Native Canadian folklore and stories of Creation. The book should be a an essential purchase if you have a high population of students of Scandinavian descent; otherwise it would a useful, not not essential, addition to any well-stocked folklore collection. 


CM Review 

This recent translation of the national epic poem of Finland is filled with colour, drama and excitement both in the illustrations and prose. While the episodic chapters and narrative may seem a bit stilted, it amply conveys the powerful mythological and mystical stories that have captivated not only the Finnish imagination but those far flung from this epic landscape.
     internal artWhile the original epic consists of 22,795 verses, divided into 50 chapters, Mäkinen’s Finnish prose, translated by Canadian Kaarina Brooks, is divided into 20 chapters interspersed with illustrations and translated runes from the epic itself. The first seven chapters include the story told in the first ten chapters of the original piece telling of the origin of Earth and introducing the characters Vääinäämööinen and Joukahainen, their relationship with each other and the influence that this relationship has on the rest of the story. This story cycle ends with the main character of the Kalevala, Vääinäämööinen, tricking the blacksmith Ilmarinen to forge Sampo so he can acquire the Mistress of the North for his wife. The following chapters tell the complicated nine cycles of stories of the main characters and their attempt to forge out their own futures. There is a great deal of violence, but this is handled well in the translation and is not apparent in either the evocative but restrained black-and-white or coloured illustrations. While marketed by the publisher for children as well as older readers, this reviewer feels that the intended readers should be more mature as to more fully appreciate the understated delivery that this book as object presents. A prologue introduces the reader to the historical and literary significance of the national epic, and the four-page glossary offers both a pronunciation guide and an aid to clarify and remind the readers of the largely unfamiliar Finnish mythological characters and geography.


Review from the Faerie Magazine

Winner of the Aesop Award for Children's folklore, The Kalevala is the national epic poem of Finland. Each chapter begins and includes several poems, called runes, written in the folk poetry meter called "kalevalameter" which is over a thousand years old. The first chapter introduces the Finish version of the world's creation, and our hero, Vainamoinen, the great singer, son of Ilmatar, the goddess of nature. The stories follow Vainamoinen through his adventurous life, starting with his birth into the ocean, where he floats among the waves for six years, on to his duel of words with a young man where he wins the hand of the lad's sister, Aino, and into the land of death to retrieve the remaining three magic words needed for the building of his boat. With enchanting illustrations and moral lessons still relevant today, The Kalevala entertains as well as teaches. The tales will surely capture your imaginative heart as it has many other readers, artists, composers and writers through the ages. - Jennifer Carson