[review] Salla Simukka: Sisterland

Simukka, Sallasisarla
Illustrations Saku Heinänen
Sisarla [’Sisterland’]
Tammi 2016
ISBN 978-951-31-9065-1

The first children’s novel by the established Finnish youth literature author Salla Simukka begins with three important quotes that set the tone and path for ’Sisterland’. The first one is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carrol, the second from The Secret Garden (1911) by F. H. Burnett and the third from The Snow Queen (1845) by H. C. Andersen. The adventure in another world starts when the 11-year-old Aliisa follows a mysterious wovenflie and falls through all the snow that has been piling up after a seemingly never-ending heavy snowfall. Aliisa lands in Sisterland – a beautiful, summery world. Soon, she finds her way into the wonderful Garden of Secrets at the heart of Sisterland; it is full of interesting and weird creatures such as dream weavers, wind fairies and asking flowers.

In the garden, Aliisa befriends another eleven-year-old girl, Meri. She has also fallen through the snow into Sisterland – and, as they find out, neither of them is there by coincidence. They must find the queen who rules the Sisterland, so that they can end the snowfall in their own world. But when the task is completed, the world is saved and the girls are back home, it seems that Meri has completely forgotten her best friend and their friendship. Aliisa has to encounter an even more difficult journey: she has to find out what is wrong with Meri and to help her, or she will lose her soul sister for good.

’Sisterland’ utilises intertextuality and skilfully re-writes classical fairy tale and fantasy story elements, which serves the purpose of addressing the dual-audience of children’s literature: both children and adults will enjoy the reading. Moreover, it also encourages one to read (or re-read!) the great classics by Carroll, Burnett and Andersen. The plot flows effortlessly and the language of the story is beautiful. The powers of imagination and friendship are at the core of the novel. Especially magnificent is the way Simukka writes about girls, friendship and strength. When Aliisa and Meri learn that their task is to save their world, they both feel that they cannot be heroes on their own. Together they can. This is a great way to transcend the tradition of a young, lonesome hero on her or his quest and to emphasise the power of friendship. ’Sisterland’ is a magical adventure that honours traditional storytelling and takes the readers to the land of imagination.

Myry Voipio

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