Children’s literature in Portuguese: How and where to find good books in Helmet libraries?

What type of children’s literature can we borrow from the public libraries? Are there any good children’s books in Portuguese in the greater Helsinki public library system (HelMet)? You have probably asked yourself these questions several times before

This tutorial will be very useful for those that are concerned with the promotion of Portuguese as a heritage language, for Portuguese-speaking families and for teachers of Portuguese as a second language.

We’re all more or less familiar with the HelMet system. Finding books in Portuguese for children, however, is often not an easy task. We frequently wonder if the books we find on the shelves of our local libraries are the only ones our children may read. The answer is no, there are many more options! Only a small selection of these books, the ones that get borrowed more often, are available on the library shelves. Most of the books in Portuguese remain in the libraries’ warehouses. It’s up to us to bring them to the shelves. The more books in Portuguese we borrow, the more books will be available, the more new books in Portuguese will get purchased. This article will show you how to take advantage of the fantastic resources HelMet offers.

How many children’s and youth books in Portuguese are available through HelMet?

The number of available books in Portuguese varies from one month to the other. We can, however, say that, at the moment (11.6.2019) there are 298 children’s and 28 youth books in the greater Helsinki area public libraries.

There is a great variety of children’s books for pre-readers, novice and advanced readers: bilingual, with pictograms, novels, classics, translations of renowned authors, fantasy, adventure, comic books, legends, folk tales and picture books. There are also many non-fiction books: first books and interactive books for babies and toddlers as well as books for expanding vocabulary, for instance. There are even books by renowned literary authors that decided to write for children.

Of the 329 children’s and youth books we found, 70 are works translated to Portuguese. For example Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren, Antoine Saint Exupéry, Beatrice Alemagna, J. K. Rowling, Hans Christian Andersen and Hergé, to name a few. There are also translations of books from the large movie and animation companies.

Among the 223 books by Portuguese-speaking authors and illustrators, we found works by Yara Kono, Catarina Sobral, Madalena Matoso, Ana Saldanha, Joana Estrela, Ciça Fittipaldi, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Luísa Ducla Soares, Fernando Pessoa, Rui Lopes, David Machado, José Saramago, Jorge Amado, Alice Vieira, Ana Maria Machado, Rui de Oliveira, among others.

In HelMet’s catalog, books by authors, illustrators and Brazilian publishers are very few. We, at Kulttuurikeskus Ninho, are working to close this gap with support from the Brazilian Embassy in Finland and the Brazil-Finland Cultural Center.

Where can you find them?

Books move around all the time through the library system, but these are the libraries with the largest number of books for children and youth in Portuguese:

  • Pasila: 230
  • Iso Omena: 53
  • Sello : 39
  • Tapiola: 32
  • Myyrmäki 13
  • Entresse 10

A smaller set of books gets distributed through the other libraries in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. The question then is how to access these books, if they are not on the shelves.

The simplest way is to use HelMet’s website The 329 works are in the catalog, all merely a couple of clicks away.

You have certainly already used HelMet’s search engine to find books by author, illustrator, title, subject or collection, for instance. When you are trying to find children’s books in Portuguese, usually one of two things happen: you either know the title or author and will be able to find it easily, or you don’t have something specific in mind and want to browse the catalog to find something age-appropriate. In this last case, the search becomes tricky. Many have searched for “Portuguese children’s book” and gotten no results. “Advanced Search” is a great option and simple to use when you are searching for something specific that you are curious about. However, when searching for literature in minority languages, like Portuguese, everything becomes more complex, especially if someone at home asks you to “stop by the library to pick up a new book to read tonight”.

The key takeaway from this article comes in the form of an asterisk (*). You will see it in the instructions highlighted by the Kolibrís (hummingbirds) below.

This tutorial allows you to complete the “Advanced Search” and have access to the entire catalog of children’s and youth books in Portuguese available through HelMet. You will then be able to select and reserve the books and have them sent to the library of your choice.

Check the yellow Kolibrí!

As Hakusana/keyword: write an asterisk (*). With a single click, you will access all the children’s and youth selection of the public library system. There are a lot of books to explore, which is why we suggest you to activate the Genrebox in the bottom right corner. Selecting this option will help you make the search more precise, narrowing it by categories that refer to the age or interest of the reader. Unfortunately, the genres are available in Finnish only, but we translated some for you:

  • Portugalinkielenkirjallisuus/ Literature in Portuguese: 223
  • Kuvakirjat/ Illustrated books: 166
  • Kertomukset/ Illustrated tales: 87
  • Romaanit/ Novels: 50
  • Sarjakuvat/ Comic books: 13
  • Huumori/ Humor: 11
  • Fantasiakirjallisuus/ Fantasy literature: 8
  • Klassikot/ Classics: 6
  • Paksulehtiset/ Board books (for babies and toddlers): 6

With these resources and others you will find in your own searches, we encourage you to discover new authors and borrow new books to read with your family. Let’s read for others and let them read for us. And, above all else, let’s keep on offering new words to be spoken.

Happy searching and reading!

Lau Gazzotti

See you at Kolibrí Festival, October 3-6, 2019. The full schedule of activities will be available from September 3, 2019, on this website.

Translation: Andrea Brito