Review by: Jennifer Baltes
Poorling doesn’t fit in. She’s not a bear cub, like her brothers, and with her tiny, upright body and flame-shaped head, she doesn’t look like anything in the forest. She desperately wants to be a bear: fierce, strong, and loved by her bear mother, Umi. As Poorling’s frustration mounts, she surprises herself with the power to transform. Enter the Scaup, who offers to teach Poorling to become a fierce and strong bear. Poorling’s journey to her power brings violence and death, and worst of all, rejection by the one creature whose love she wants most of all.
Rooted in Finnish folklore, Oksi is at once haunting and playful, stark and beautiful. Filled with ancient chant and song alongside arguments between bear children, “…NOT!,” Oksi challenges us to ponder the enduring push and pull of creation and destruction, trust and betrayal, condemnation and redemption. The strong chords of connection between mother and daughter are tested: not only between Poorling and Umi, but also between Umi and the sky mother Emuu, Emuu and her forest daughter, Mana (death in Finnish folklore), and Mana and her “Shadow Children.” Mothers insist daughters conform to their wishes; daughters defy mothers. These conflicts lead to emotional and even physical harm.
The art of Oksi combines fluid black and white illustrations of animals, forest, and sky, with brilliant colors of yellow and red that become language itself: song and magic flow in yellow lines and text, while red rivets our attention to violence and death. The northern lights flow beautifully across the page with brilliant watercolor and pen and ink detail. Panels with hand-lettered word bubbles alternate with wordless panels that require slow and careful observation.
Publisher: Asema Kustannus , 2018
Translator: Silja-Maaria Aronpuro
Publisher: Levine Querido, 2021
- GLLI Translated Young Adult Book Prize Winner for 2022
- Sarjakuva-Finlandia Nominee (2018)
- HelMet Award Nominee (2019)
- Jarkko Laine -palkinto Nominee (2020).
- Starred reviews: Booklist, Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Connection.
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About the author:
Mari Ahokoivu is an illustrator and comics artist from Finland. She has been publishing comics and teaching comics since 2007. Her magnum opus, Oksi, was called beautiful, clever, funny, vibrant, and full of magic by the biggest newspaper in her home country; was shortlisted for the Jarkko Laine Award; and has now been translated into English as the first graphic novel on the Levine Querido list. Her Pinterest page reveals some of her work on Oksi and links to her other comics.
View Ms. Ahokoivu’s comments about writing Oksi in this short video produced by Levine Querido.
Silja-Maaria Aronpuro is a Finnish translator. She finds bringing other people’s stories to life in a different language pretty magical. She is happy to have translated books that have been selected the Finnish graphic novel of the year 2018 and the translation of the year 2019 by the panel of critics in the Finnish comics society’s magazine.
Reviewer: Jennifer Baltes
Jennifer Baltes is the K-12 Librarian at the International School of Islamabad. She has worked in school and public libraries in several states in the US and in Dubai, UAE. Jennifer is married and has one daughter at university. Her perfect day includes drinking coffee, reading, and hiking, although she hasn’t figured out how to do all three at the same time.
Curator of the second #IntlYALitMonth at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative:
Linda Hoiseth is the high school librarian at the American School of Dubai (taking over this year from Jennifer Baltes) and has previously worked at schools in the US, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Peru, Qatar, and India. She has a B.S. in English and Secondary Education, an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a graduate certificate in School Library Media. She’s currently a member of the ECIS Libraries Special Interest Group committee. She’s a fierce advocate for all students to have access to all the books. Follow her on Twitter.