Crazy about Helsinki
Almost every Finnish child knows about Ricky Rapper, a red-haired boy known for hunting green pepper sausages in Hungary, or hiding facial acne from a friend.
Author Sinikka Nopola created this children’s literature phenomenon in collaboration with her sister, Tiina Nopola – as well as dozens of other successful children’s books, dramas, radio plays and musicals.
“Maybe I write because I’ve viewed comedy and tragedy as being two sides of the same coin since girlhood. I see a grain of comedy in the depths of tragedy and a little sadness – such as the transience of summer – in the lightest moments,” Nopola says.
Nopola never preaches in her children’s books, but regards humour as a powerful weapon against adversity. Humour also provides a way of countering shame with laughter. This may be why Finns, who often suffer from low self-esteem, have fallen in love with Nopola’s book series, which gently mocks the ‘it’s no big deal’ attitude of the people of the Häme region.
“But the truth is that I love Helsinki,” Nopola suddenly declares.
“I’m just crazy about the place!”
Plot twists high up in Lauttasaari
Nopola believes that many church villages in Finland have been ruined by concrete block architecture.
“But Helsinki is one of the country’s most picturesque places: here you can find old buildings, ranging from Art Nouveau palaces to wooden houses and shops built of stone,” explains Nopola.
On the other hand, she also views Helsinki as an exception among capital cities in offering mushroom picking or open sea views just a few kilometres away from the centre.
Nopola lavishes praise on her home district of Lauttasaari. She views Ryssänkärki, a rocky height on the island, as one of the finest locations in Helsinki.
She has come up with many plot twists for her books while walking along the Lauttasaari shoreline. Co-authored with Tiina, her most recent books, ‘Hayflower and Quiltshoe as Poets’ and ‘Ricky Rapper and the Nighthawk’, appeared last autumn. A movie version of the latest Rapper novel, which Nopola is eagerly looking forward to, is due out in February.
Nopola believes that the Annantalo Arts Centre – with its steady stream of ambitious events, workshops, exhibitions and performances for children – is the best children’s cultural venue in Helsinki.
“In addition, the Akateeminen kirjakauppa (Academic Bookstore) has promised to make children’s literature a priority. But Helsinki also deserves a children’s House of Literature, which the charity Pro Lastenkirjallisuus ry has been advocating for years,” Nopola adds.
Text and picture: Venla Pystynen
Sinikka Nopola chose opera singer Reetta Ristimäki as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.