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Mika Arto Juhani Keränen (1973) was born in Helsinki. He studied horticulture in Finland, and Estonian language and literature in Estonia. Keränen has worked as a translator, an organizer of cultural events, and a teacher of Estonian and Finnish. In 2011, he founded a publishing company – Keropää, which publishes his own children’s books. In addition to publishing, Keränen assists with FC Santos Tartu. As a children’s author, Keränen is primarily known for his Astrid-Lindgren-style crime novels that portray children growing up in a small town and having all kind of adventures.
Mika Keränen began studying horticulture, but decided to become active on the field of literature instead upon graduating from the University of Tartu with a major in Estonian language. Keränen has found an angle in children’s literature, in which there is not much competition to fear – adventure stories. Keränen’s books published so far – The Stolen Orange Bicycle (2008), The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest (2009), The Old Pink House (2010), The Mysterious Flower Snatcher (2011), The Golden Lurich (2014) and Firewood Thieves (2015) – tell the tales of a group of children that solves mysteries in a district of quaint wooden houses called Supilinn, located in Estonia’s second-largest city.
Already his first children’s crime book received praise and readers’ approval – it was surmised that readers would be thankful for these types of works in the future as well, and Keränen has continued to write in this style with extreme consistency. The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest was awarded the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s award for best children’s book in 2009.
Keränen’s books have been tagged with the label of “Estonian children’s crime” by the publishing industry. However, while criminal novels are sometimes regarded in adult literature as a “lower” class of popular books, Keränen’s works bring forth the possibility that one can actually speak about very important matters in the shadow of a story with criminal motifs in children’s literature.
A topicality in space and time is characteristic of Keränen’s books: the events depicted happen here and now in the written contemporary, and in a city district that has become dear to the writer. Although set in a very specific set of conditions, the details capture quite well very overarching childish and human tendencies, interests, and trains of thought. Thus, his books are captivating even for those who are not familiar with the specific location. What’s more – the events unfolding in a sleepy district of wooden houses creates a proximity to Astrid Lindgren’s criminal stories, which likewise take place in small towns drowning in lilac bushes. The wooden-district or smalltown milieu similarly give the stories a lightly romantic tone.
From the standpoint of plot development and resolution, it is important for the child investigators to be operating in a place, where they are familiar with everyone and everything; where attention is piqued by an open window in the wrong place, or a flower bouquet of unclear origin. Where the children know the representatives of various professions (police, shopkeep, real-estate agent, etc.), and where these individuals know the children in turn.
Keränen’s children’s tales are fantastic life lessons: conflict situations arise from people’s different needs and attitudes, and every story shows in its own way how to reach a peaceful solution that reconciles all sides. Modern social problems are dealt with – unemployment, financial subsistence, a greed for profits, and the cult of success. Mika Keränen storytells humorously, and although making jokes isn’t his aim in and of itself, the author’s calm and pleasant manner of writing amplifies the books’ humanist message: a person in need will always get help if he or she comes out with their worries. People live together for this very reason: in order to help one another live.
|The Phantom Cyclist
Strange goings-on are afoot in Tartu once more. Many of the city’s women have been robbed of their expensive designer handbags. When Mari’s Mum is forced to surrender her own favourite bag to the expert cycling thief, the old secret club decides to reunite to put things right once more.
|The Good Ship Jõmmu
The Jõmmu, a huge old-fashioned riverboat, has disappeared! Police are baffled – nothing suspicious has been seen either upstream or downstream. The curious kids of the Secret Souptown Society – Mari, Satu, Reelika, Olav, and Anton – have to figure the case out, cost whatever it may. Timo, a boat enthusiast, joins their group and is a huge help to his friends.
It was the first Monday of October, and a new student came to first grade in a Tallinn school – Armando, whose father is an Argentinian and mother an Estonian. Armando had lived in Argentina until that time, and doesn't understand everything in Estonian yet. He is, however, extremely talented at football.
|The Mysterious Flower Snatcher
The events in Mika Keränen's fourth crime book, "The Mysterious Flower Snatcher", takes place the following year, when the children set to solving mysteries with new vigor. This time, the action happens on several fronts. Mari starts football practices, where she is the goalkeeper for a boy's team.
|The Old Pink House
Something suspicious is again taking place on the sleepy streets of Supilinn – the next task the children's secret club encounters is catching a ghost! Mari, Olev, Sadu, Anton, and Reilika climb onto the roof of Sadu's garage, from which they can see a decrepit wooden house with peeling paint. Sadu says that a strange banging noise comes from it at night.
|The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest
The secret club founded by ten-year-old Mari and her four friends faces yet another mystery. Mari's grandfather finds an unopened letter in a book, which details some treasure hidden in the Tartu Botanical Garden during World War II. The children have to make use of only a few clues to determine where the treasure can be found.
Reading examples: English, German
|The Stolen Orange Bicycle
"The Stolen Orange Bicycle" is the first in an eight-part series of crime novels for children. Each volume tells a story about the adventures had by a group of child-detectives in Supilinn (Souptown) – a district of old wooden houses and lush yards in Estonia’s second-largest city, Tartu. In the first book, a bicycle owned by a Belgian professor on his way to a folk-music festival is stolen in broad daylight.
2018 Tartu City Writer Grant
2017 Good Children’s Book (The Phantom Cyclist)
2016 Footprints in the Alley of Pioneers of Tartu
2016 J. Oro Prize for Children’s Literature
2016 Nukits Competition, 3rd place (The Golden Lurich, Firewood Thieves)
2012 Nukits Competition, 2nd place (The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest, The Old Pink House, The Mysterious Flower Snatcher)
2012 Children and Young Adult Jury (Bērnu un jauniešu žūrija), Latvia, 1st place (Grades 3–4) (The Stolen Orange Bicycle)
2011 Good Children’s Book (The Mysterious Flower Snatcher)
2009 Annual Children’s Literature Award of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest)
The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest
Finnish: Hopeinen aarrearkku, Avain 2010
The Mysterious Flower Snatcher
Latvian: Noslēpumainais puķu čiepējs, Zvaigzne ABC 2015
The Stolen Orange Bicycle
Russian in Estonia: Украденный оранжевый велосипед, Kite 2013
Finnish: Oranssi polkupyörä, Avain 2011
Latvian: Nozagts oranžs divritenis, Zvaigzne ABC 2011
Fantoomrattur (The Phantom Cyclist), Keropää 2017, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 159 pp
Jõmmu (The Good Ship Jõmmu), Keropää 2016, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 152 pp
Küttepuuvargad (Firewood Thieves), Keropää 2015, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 120 pp
Kuldne Lurich (The Golden Lurich), Keropää 2014, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 148 pp
Väravajoonel (At the Goal Line), Keropää 2014, 222 pp / Maalivivalla, WSOY 2014, 208 pp
Professor Must (Professor Black), Keropää 2013, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 143 pp
Armando, Tallinn Central Library 2012, illustrated by Kertu Sillaste, 48 pp; Keropää 2015, 80 pp
Salapärane lillenäppaja (The Mysterious Flower Snatcher), Keropää 2011, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 142 pp
Vana roosa maja (The Old Pink House), Jutulind 2010, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 92 pp
Peidetud hõbedane aardelaegas (The Hidden Silver Treasure Chest), Jutulind 2009, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 116 pp
Varastatud oranž jalgratas (The Stolen Orange Bicycle), Jutulind 2008, illustrated by Marja-Liisa Plats, 88 pp