The art of illustrating the invisible: Diversity and multiculturalism in picture books

The Book Banana is sailing on a banana boat with a book as a sail.

How can picture books help children understand the diversity of the world, their own country and society?


In this seminar, illustrator Maria Sann, MA – winner of the Rudolf Koivu Prize in 2021 – explores her personal story as an emigrant from Russia in 1993 and her quest for new expressions without stereotypical visual effects. Publisher Jenni Erkintalo, founder of Etana Editions, talks about the creation of a multifaceted picture book – one that speaks to the reader and evokes emotions, questions and memories, but which can also create memories, humanism and a greater understanding of the world around us.

The seminar will be followed by a vernissage, with the finalists and their contributions in the Nordic Culture Point’s competition for illustrators, which last autumn called for a front figure for the project that promotes reading called The Nordic Bookworm.



15:00 Nordic Culture Point, welcoming words.

15:05 Maria Sann, illustrator: Multiculturalism can be something invisible.

The winner of the Rudolf Koivu prize of 2021, Maria Sann, explorers her personal history as an emigrant from Russia in 1993. As a Swedish speaking Finn born in The Soviet Union, her personal history shines a light on the experience of being a minority within a minority. Maria tackles the lack of an obvious visible difference in appearance, underlying the experience of being an immigrant. Her talk suggests ways of transcribing the invisible psychological experience of being different through illustration, without the use of stereotypical visual effects of ethnicity and material objects of national identity.


15:50 Jenni Erkintalo, publisher: The special applied art form of children’s picture books.

Etana Editions is an award winning independent picture book publisher. In the past seven years, Etana Editions has published over 60 books and held dozens of design and storytelling workshops for children. We work with talented illustrators, authors and visual storytellers. We believe in books where illustration and text, hand in hand are creating an engaging reading experience. Such books are created through a work process where the authors, editors, designers work together with the reader in mind upfront. Picture books are applied art form. Their goal is to talk to the reader, evoke feelings, questions and memories, while also creating memories. As publishers, our task is to create the bridge between the artist and the reader, to help authors crystallise their ideas, how their message can reach the reader. It is a beautiful and complex journey.


16:35 Questions and discussion – moderator: Jaana Pesonen


16:50 End of the seminar


17:00 Opening of exhibition at the library

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