Thank you for the stories

When I moved to Finland 3 years and 3 months ago, I barely knew the language. All I could read was the free supermarket adverts that came through the door, matching the products to multi-vowelled words underneath ( ääs and öös, mostly, or so it seemed). Now I’m devouring fiction in Finnish at a frightening pace, and there’s really one place I have to thank: Mikkeli City Library.

Most Finns use the library regularly, averaging 10 visits a year. They do it because it’s worth it: Finland invests in its libraries properly. You can find what you need, when it’s published.

First impressions are very important. The children’s section was colourful and attractive.

MikkeliLibrary1

I started from the baby books:

MikkeliLibraryChildrensSection

Then I moved on to comics, including Tove Jansson’s Moomins:

MikkeliLibraryMoomins

And books in simplified Finnish, like this one about famous Finnish women:

MikkeliLibrarySuomalaisiaSuurnaisia

I read Finnish classics in translation from the adult section. Aleksis Kivi’s Seven Brothers, the first novel written in Finnish, also describes the struggles of a country boy has learning to read. Because you needed to be able to read to get married in church…

MikkeliLibraryKiviSinisalo

Then I raced breathlessly through the adventures of the teenage section. Salla Simukka is out now in English, and Maria Turtschaninoff will be in January. Find them!

MikkeliLibraryNordicBookWeek2015

Now the world of ‘grown-up’ books stretches before me. It was Nordic Library Week last week, so I could find Scandinavian and Baltic stories in Finnish on prominent display. I don’t need to read Johanna Sinisalo in English or Rosa Liksom with a dictionary any more. I’m moving to a bigger city now but I won’t forget where I came from. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Roald Dahl was right, reading helps you grow.

Thank you Mikkeli Library! I’ll miss you when I move house.

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