What kind of food production is good for the Earth and humans? According to Professor of Nutrition Maijaliisa Erkkola and Doctoral Researcher Riikka Pajulahti, this question can be considered even by the little ones in the family. Their Finnish-language book, Kestokamut järkieväiden jäljillä (‘Sustainability mates looking for smart food’), makes the world of food familiar to children of primary school age. According to the duo, children’s books that draw from research are a natural way of carrying out the University’s third core duty of public engagement.
“Research is primarily conducted with public funds. It would be wrong to think our target audience is limited to the adult population,” Erkkola notes.
Gaudeamus, the scholarly publisher of the University of Helsinki, started publishing children’s books in 2020. In the book written by Erkkola and Pajulahti and illustrated by Tiina Konttila, children investigate things on their own: they educate summer camp counsellors on sustainable diets and source food from the local environment.
The 50-page picture book contains weighty information on nutrition science, the climate effects of food, and biology. Also included are delicious dishes whose recipes have been compiled online. Erkkola and Pajulahti have investigated how the eating habits of children differ from recommendations. Among other content introduced in the book are legumes, which, based on research, are not children’s favourites.
“Familiarising yourself with legumes through the book makes it easier to try them when having meals,” Pajulahti explains.
The children’s books published by Gaudeamus teach children source criticism and information retrieval, as well as the fact that researchers don’t know everything either. When a professor is unable to tell the campers with certainty whether eating fish boosts your intelligence, they advise the children to contact a docent with a better understanding of the matter.
A populariser of research-based knowledge and a publisher of translations of classics
With a history stretching back over 50 years, Gaudeamus is known for its high-quality scholarly and non-fiction books as well as for translations of classic works by philosophers such as Aristotle and Michel Foucault. The publishing house also publishes seminal works and learning materials in a range of disciplines, thereby supporting teaching and research at the University.
“Knowledge based on research is our overriding guiding principle,” Publishing Editor Sanni Tengvall sums up.
In scholarly terms, the publications are ambitious. Gaudeamus’s scholarly books undergo a rigorous peer review process, and an editorial board composed of researchers representing various fields provides support for publishing decisions. Children’s books and other popular works are also submitted for review by experts.
“Our classification in the Finnish Publication Forum rating system is 2, which means that we are a leading scholarly publication channel.”
The publishing editors carefully polish manuscripts with the authors. According to Tengvall, good non-fiction books have their facts straight, presented in an understandable and interesting manner. The structure of the text is balanced and the written expression smooth. To make it easy for the reader to learn new things, the layout of books too is carefully designed down to the font and column width.
“A good non-fiction book can be an enjoyable read.”
Illustrative works provide elements for public discussion
Truth, Bildung and the other values of the University of Helsinki guide the work of Gaudeamus. The publishing house promotes open access publishing by operating the Helsinki University Press, a joint venture of Gaudeamus and Helsinki University Library, and strives to ensure that important phenomena can be discussed also in Finnish. For example, a book entitled Kestävyyden avaimet (‘Keys to sustainability’) is the first Finnish-language general presentation on sustainability science and the means it provides for the coexistence of people and nature.
“These kinds of works help maintain Finnish as a language of scholarship,” Tengvall points out.
With popular works, the publisher is also heavily involved in the audiobook market. Another new initiative is the Tiedekulmapokkarit (‘Think Corner paperbacks’) series, in which top-level researchers induct readers into the themes of events held at Think Corner.
In fact, several awards and nominations are bestowed on Gaudeamus each year. For instance, J. Sakari Salonen’s book entitled Viisi maailmanloppua (‘Five Apocalypses’) was recently awarded the Lauri Jäntti Non-Fiction Prize, while Ritva Kylli’s Suomen ruokahistoria (‘Finnish food history’) won the Kanava Award for non-fiction.
Ideas for new books stem from current phenomena and from what is new and meaningful in individual fields of science. Tengvall points out that, as a slow form of publication, books provide an opportunity for thorough argumentation and contemplation.
“We can offer elements for high-quality public discussion.”
You can order works published by Gaudeamus easily from the webstore. You can also browse the selection at the Think Corner bookshop or at the Helsinki and Turku Book Fairs. Gaudeamus’s books are sold by several bookstores across Finland.