[review] Hanna Lundström & Maija Hurme: Rassel prassel puss. Poetry for beginners

Lundström, Hanna9789515236883
Illustrations Maija Hurme
Onnen kuplia. Runoja aloittelijoille [’Rassel prassel puss. Poetry for beginners’]
Finnish translation: Tittamari Marttinen
Kustantamo S&S 2016
ISBN 978-951-52-3830-6

Hanna Lundström’s debut Rassel prassel puss. Poesi för nybörjare (Schildts & Söderströms 2015) was orginally published in Finnish-Swedish in 2015. The work was nominated, rightly, for the Arvid Lydecken prize. Now the book of poems for little children is available in Finnish, translated by Tittamari Marttinen. These “beginner friendly” poems are a joy to read!

The book begins gleefully with the poem “Paste worm” (“Tahnamato”), in which toothpaste runs away from its tube and stretches itself up to a seven-meter-long creature. In the illustration, the toddler lies nonchalantly in the bath tub and glances at the paste worm that has invaded the bath room. “That quick snakey, / is slippery and sneaky. / On the floor it slithers here and there. / Who can catch the paste worm?” (”Tuo nopea liero, / on liukas ja kiero. / Se kiemurtelee pitkin lattiaa. / Kuka tahnamadon kiinni saa?”). The situation is hilarious and bound to seem familiar in many homes.

All the poems in Rassel prassel puss share the viewpoint and the enthusiasm of the toddler who wants to get to know the world without prejudice and using all the senses. In the poems, we listen to the buzz of the household appliances, taste snow as well as the words in a newspaper, feel the bark of the birch and watch the mop that stands in the cleaning closet. The forbidding and scolding voice of an adult is completely missing from the poems. The poems contain ponderings of things greater than life and all the wonders of the world. What is the playground like in the middle of the night?

Like a dandelion without roots
like a garden without a jug
like a straw without a drink
like a dough without a pan
like a swimming hall without water
that’s how the playground is in the middle of the night –
my goodness, so quiet!

(Kuin voikukka ilman juuria
kuin puutarha ilman kannua
kuin pilli ilman juomista
kuin taikina ilman pannua
kuin uimahalli ilman vettä
on leikkipuisto keskiyöllä –
niin hiljainen, voi että!)

Happiness and safety can be found at the background of each poem. The world is a wondrous place that can be explored without a worry.

The language of the poems is fresh, light and rhythmic. The rhymes bind the verses together and alliteration is used here and there. In the poem “First snow” (Ensilumi), the verses are very short and mimic the falling flakes. “In the warmth of the sauna” (Saunan lämmössä) contains a lot of onomatopoetic words that sound like the hissing sauna heater. “Babynews” (Vauvasanomat) imitates the sound of a rustling newspaper: “Rustle, crack, swish, / wrinkle, munch, shred!” (Rapista, rutista, kahista, / rypistä, mussuta, silppua!). The words fit into your mouth and the poems are at their finest when they are read out loud.

Maija Hurme’s illustrations work very well with the text. They describe the often humoristic small everyday details in the life of a toddler and bring out the things that capture a child’s eye. Every spread paints a unique landscape: sometimes the focus is on household appliances, sometimes on the burgeoning new leaves on the branches of a birch or on a beautiful foggy landscape. Unlike in the poems, the point of view varies a lot: it is either the toddler’s, an adult’s or an outsider’s. The technique is clear and traditional. The most spectacular illustrations are the hazy water colours. Especially the cover of the book is really beautiful.

Rassel prassel puss is a very happy and inspiring poetry book, which brings out the small child’s point of view of the world in a funny way.

Jutta Setälä

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