Laura Lähteenmäki

Veikko Somerpuro
Laura Lähteenmäki: Laske salaa kymmeneen. Novel for children, WSOY, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Myy, Viivi, Heta, Aada, and Camilla are a close-knit group of five girls who call themselves Pätkikset. But as the fourth grade draws to a close, Myy finds that something has changed. She feels that she’s no longer part of the gang. She notices that lively conversations fall silent when she approaches her friends. When the girls hug each other in a tight circle, there’s no room for Myy.  


Laske salaa kymmeneen (“Count silently to ten”, not translated into English) is a story about friendship between girls and the changes that come about as you grow up, but which are difficult to accept. Myy is left out and feels that there may be something wrong with her, since she still wants to play and isn’t interested in make-up and growing up. As things become difficult with the girls, a new guy appears in the area provides a wonderful opportunity for Myy to throw herself into the world of play. Myy and Lassi run to a nearby forest and immerse themselves in a joint game where time and space disappear.  


The clever description of the game makes the reader wonder if Myy’s new friend may even be imaginary. Myy is so engrossed in the game that she doesn’t get around to asking her new friend for his phone number or last name. The book is a tribute to free play and its importance in a child’s life. Play not only gives a child happiness and entertainment, but it also supports their growth and gives them the opportunity to process feelings that can be confusing and difficult to understand. In play, children get to set the rules themselves. This is liberating, since the girl group is full of unwritten rules that constantly change as the girls grow up. 


The work skilfully depicts contemporary childhood with summer camps, school, phones and chat groups, extravagant birthday parties with specially made cupcakes and a childhood that’s short. It describes the close relationship between Myy and her single mother, which takes on new nuances as Myy grows up and also when her grandfather falls ill.  


The story vividly captures the perspective of a 10-year-old child. Myy guesses what her mother is going to say and reads between the lines of her friends’ thoughts when she suspects them of communicating behind her back. Myy doesn’t want to grow up. She resists change and still wants to throw herself into play, although she can understand the change.  


Laske salaa kymmeneen is a fluently written, linguistically beautiful children’s novel that describes a summer on the border between childhood and adolescence. Although the book depicts childhood in our time, the portrayal of play captures the timeless charm and power of childhood games.   

Laura Lähteenmäki is a Finnish writer of children’s and youth literature. Since her debut youth novel in 1998, she has written around twenty works. Lähteenmäki writes about young people’s lives and their search for a place of their own. She was awarded the Arvid Lydecken prize for a first-class children’s novel for her book Marenkikeiju in 2007 and her work has also been nominated for the Topelius and Finlandia Junior prizes. Laura Lähteenmäki lives in Jyväskylä and, in addition to her work as a writer, is the head of a publishing house.