Viiva vie Viivin tarinaa

The line leading the way

Réka Király talked to Sari Airola about her new picture book Oh Vivian! The warm-hearted story about friendship, the need to be accepted and the attractiveness of lies also makes us adults think about how truthful is the image we give of ourselves.

There is the white lie, the small untruthfulness, the large round deception, the harmful edgy missleading… all kinds of lies exist in this world. How do they find us? How do we recognise them? They can appear from children’s mouth and often from adults. Whom do we trust? A lie can be also unintentional.

One day, Vivian tells a tiny lie about a unicorn. Then the lie starts to grow and it feels oh so soft. This is how Sari Airola’s latest picture book Oh Vivian! (orig. Voi Viivi!) starts, a story that we can all relate to and have experienced at some point in our lives.

– From the beginning, I had a clear vision of Viivi, whose character has been the catalyst of the entire book. A character who reacts quickly, sometimes without thinking, and who is a little impatient and adventurous, a character who dreams and is restless. She is a combination of many people in my life, Airola adds.

Because of these characteristics of the main character, Airola chose color pencils to tell his story.

– In the previous books I made with color pencils, I tended to be careful. I used small strokes and soft details. This time, I hoped that the illustrations show the same energy as the main character's personality.

And in this quest she succeeded. The book's illustrations are literally bursting with energy. They show the different characteristics of various lies and the changes they cause in Vivian. The pictures are lively and bring speed to the story.

The Finnish name of the main character in the story is Viivi. Viiva in Finnish means line. Is this a coincidence?

– Maybe not, we laugh together with Sari. It happened unintentionally, but it adds yet another layer to this book.


Airola wanted to create a book about lying that doesn't point fingers, or tell what's wrong and what's right from a hierarchical point of view. Oh Vivian! opens the different levels of lying, how it is present in our everyday lives and why it is a healthy part of children's development. When children's imaginations run wild, it's easy to tell stories about the non-existing. Is that wrong? In her book, Airola deals with lying through joy, kindness and understanding. 

– In the present world, adults can so easily pretend to be someone entirely different than what they really are, for example in social media and politics. How much has lying become an accepted part of our lives? Airola asks.

For the adults reading the book the little ones, this story holds a mirror. What is real in our lives, how do we shuttle between all the streams of information. How far are we willing to go to give a certain image of ourselves, and what are we teaching our children through it?


Airola's deep passion for visual storytelling is easy to see. She is an established illustrator with a long history of picture books. Airola has always found the fitting technique for every book she illustrates, without compromising her recognizable style. This time she challenged herself to use color pencils in a different way than before. I asked her what could be her next challenge.

– It would be interesting to try collage again. I collect details of my everyday life by photographing and taking a kind of mental photos. The ideas for books always arise from some personal life experience.

Can't wait to see what new adventure Sari Airola's imagination will take us on next!

Text: Réka Király

Sari Airola
Oh Vivian! (original title: Voi Viivi!)
Etana Editions, 2023

ISBN 978-952-7105-96-2
32 pages
25 x 17 cm
Colours 4/4
Age: 3+

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