Wolfs Present by Kunsti Kustannus, Finland

Brief Synopsis

The Wolf`s Present − a Book about a Child’s Sickness and Recovery

Author: Ilona Tomi

Illustration: Anna-Liisa Tarvainen, Art Therapist M.A.

Translation into English: Sirpa Turunen-Viljanmaa and Roger Luke

“The story leaves its reader warm, hopeful and able to look forward to the future”.

The Wolf`s Present is a beautiful story about a child’s sickness and recovery. It is told through the eyes of a little bear who must see a doctor, who’s a wolf. How can the wolf convince the little bear to endure treatment that will hurt him at first but that will cure him when it ends?

The Wolf’s Present is an engaging journey through the events that alter the daily life of many families. Harsh medication, long stays in hospital and separation from parents and loved ones change the life of the child and the entire family. Both trust and patience are needed to save a young life.


The Wolf’s Present is uniquely designed to be a tool for families and medical professionals, nurses, doctors, psychologists, etc. to help children understand the difficult feelings associated with being ill and the steps needed for recovery. Developed with a licensed art therapist, the illustrations are both healing and pedagogical. The gentle and beautiful illustrations feel therapeutic for adults too!

The book will serve as a lifeline for young cancer patients and children battling a long-term sickness.

The book has been warmly welcomed by professionals working in children’s wards in several Finnish hospitals. This kind of book has been needed.

An example of a review, published in the journal Psykologi of Finnish Psychological Association:

A review of The Wolf’s Present, a children’s book, published in Psykologi magazine (The Psychologist)

Life sustains and supports – Laura Hiekkala-Tiusanen appraises in Psykologi magazine in February 2017

When a child falls ill the whole family ends up in a serious and confused state, where help is really welcome. About 130 – 150 children in Finland are diagnosed with cancer every year. The author began to write this book when a child in her own social circle became ill with leukaemia. It was realized that there wasn’t a single book in Finnish literature that dealt with this theme from the child’s viewpoint. The name The Wolf’s Present is connected with an old African saying “A hidden treasure lies under the demon’s wing”. This resourceful thought is appropriate as the main theme of this book.

The book tells of a bear family in which one of the two cubs falls ill. According to the plot, the most important helper is the Wolf, who at first appears to be quite frightening. He takes the sick cub to various health treatment locations, where the cub must stay for a while, sometimes even by himself. These treatments also have their side effects, but life’s routines remain both safe and familiar. The patient goes through a range of different emotions with his sister, and both siblings receive support in dealing with these emotions. By the following spring the sick cub has grown stronger again, and life can continue with the cub’s normal fun and games.

Art therapist and puppeteer Anna-Liisa Tarvainen has illustrated the book. The empathy, beauty and tenderness of the pictures take the reader to a fairytale land with its many wonderful experiences. The pictures’ warmth and sense of security bypass the thinking mind and affect both the body and its emotions. The magic and fairytale depiction of nature in the illustrations clarifies one’s feelings and creates faith in life’s ability to sustain and support the reader. This is the empowering theme of the book as a whole, for scientific studies have proved that looking at images of nature can reduce one’s stress levels. The soft curves in the illustrations originate from a special oil painting technique, in which a piece of cloth is used to paint several thin layers. This technique was developed in Holland.

The book was written by Ilona Tomi, a teacher and author. Her language is beautiful, in some places even poetic. The uppermost idea behind the text is both its allowance of strong reactions and its encouragement of confronting differences. The story does not lie, deny nor intellectualize. It gives honest answers to a child’s confused questions on a level he or she can understand. The escalating process of the developing crisis has been skilfully hidden in the story. This can help and enrich the thinking patterns of those close to the child, too. The story leaves its reader feeling warm, hopeful and able to look forward to the future.

I recommend this book to physically or psychically sick children and those near to them. It’s also suitable for people treating child patients. The main theme of encountering an illness is suitable too for a broader audience, such as children in kindergartens or those who are not so seriously ill. The book’s theme is to help children understand that it’s possible to survive and get well with the help of an understanding environment and mutual hope. When an illness takes hold, the book helps readers to deal with their emotions, and it brings comfort and builds one’s confidence in the health system and encourages one to live in the here and now.

The writer works as a psychologist in the Department of Acute Psychiatry at Tampere University Hospital, Finland. The article was published in Psykologi magazine in February 2017.

Translation Sirpa Turunen-Viljanmaa


Author’s Credentials

The author of The Wolf`s Present, Ilona Tomi, is a teacher and writer.

Previous books:

Hirvikansan lapset (Mediapinta 2013).  Stories about the history of children in Finland from the Stone Age to the modern times.

Kitis kiira metsään (BoD 2014).  A children`s book about old traditions in Tampere, Finland, in the year 1870.

Punaisen kaulaliinan tapaus (BoD 2015). Short stories about bullying and friendship.

Palo, novel (Book House 2015). A story about love, art and the art of teaching, told by a young teacher and her “problematic” pupil.

Illustration’s Credentials

The illustrator of The Wolf`s Present, Anna-Liisa Tarvainen, Art Therapist M.A.

1982-1987    Master of Arts, State Desingn, Aalto University Helsinki

1979-2011    Children`s Theathre Mukamas, Tampere, Finland

  • puppet maker, state designer, teacher

2007              Children`s Theathre Vekkulikettu, Tampere

  • visiting director 2001-2007     Master of Arts, Therapeutic Arts, Hibernia College of Science on Arts, Strout, England

2007              Art therapist, tutor on painting courses, illustrator of children`s books

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