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The Magic Gardener of Picture Books

Marika Maijala
The Magician's Flower
Original title: Taikurinkukka
Etana Editions, 2022

When opening the cover of Marika Maijala's latest picture book, The Magician's Flower, you enter a world that is full of familiar details, and yet at the same time feels entirely new.

Gently at their own pace the characters reveal themselves. Who is the main character in this book actually? Aspen, who is curious and optimistic? Spruce, who is up to explore new things and proud of the sacred friendship with Aspen? Eulalia the chicken, who happens to discover a small plant in the corner of the greenhouse? Or Raisin , the plant itself, who goes through a huge transformation with the smallest visible signs to the outside?

"I made a conscious decision to place the chicken in the main role", says Marika.

Award winning Marika Maijala has been illustrating picture books for the past 15 years. The last two titles she created as both author and illustrator. The Magician's Flower is a beautiful sample of her multi-talent as an artist.

Marika Maijala at Harakka island

I visited Marika Maijala on the island of Harakka in her studio, close to the mainland of Helsinki. The house has been a chemical research lab for the Finnish military and now hosts a community of artists.

Maijala is an artist working with various mediums and techniques. She finds it exciting, the challenge to find a fitting tool of expression for each topic she is interested in. Still she creates a world that is uniquely hers, regardless of what technique she uses.

When we talk about the process of making this book, she opens the book and shows one picture.

"The key picture for me in this book is the one where the children and the chicken are reading a poem together with the plant. It is the moment where they all communicate. This picture set the tone for the rest of the book.”

The book is hand painted, and some pictures she painted from multiple angles, with various details.

"I can feel and hear the pictures while making them", Marika tells about her working process.


While she thinks every storyteller is partly telling their 'own personal' story, she believes that a good book is not forcing a story onto the reader, but leaves enough space to explore. This book is a good example of her way of thinking. It is like the waves of the sea that surround the island. The story comes close, then takes a distance. Points of view change.

"The Magician's Flower is not an exciting adventure story, it is a story about feelings and communication."

Marika invites the reader to a world where the speed is slowed down. This might seem challenging in today's world, but it is the magic ingredient in this book, the book's pace. The rhythm shines through both from the illustrations and the story. It grasps the reader and makes them feel part of the story. It is one of those books that will stay with us in memory long after we have stopped reading it or have grown up.

Marika's studio

When working with picture books, there is a group of people who support the author-illustrator in their process. Various ups and downs can always come, and it is also important to have an outside point of view from time to time when building up the story. Little do we talk about the editors and their work. This book had two picture book doulas. Leena Virtanen helped with the writing process and Jenni Erkintalo with the visual storytelling and was also responsible for the graphic design. The book was printed in Latvia.

Before the book was even published in Finland, the French language rights were sold, and a few months later other markets followed. The Magician's Flower was also selected to The BRAW Amazing Bookshelf 2023 exhibition at Bologna Children's Book Fair and the collection of The Most Beautiful Books in Finland 2023.

Hopefully it will find many readers all around the world, with its special artistic visual atmosphere and a story that is truly relatable. Inside the covers of this picture book sits firmly a philosophical but a concrete story about one's growth, and how sometimes growing means letting others see who we truly are.

Treasures in the cupboard

The Magician's Flower
Sold Foreign Rights:
French, Korean, Italian, Chinese, English

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