A basket for mushroom picking, a blanket, and a little black dog – that’s how this story begins. Even though he was abandoned in the forest, the little dog was lucky: he was adopted by two nice people. “Tintin and his Friends” is a diary of the first year they spent together, recorded mainly from the dog’s perspective. We see various little events, from their life at home to from their walks in the park, feeling the warmth the three of them share and following Tintin’s adventures with various dog-friends. In a multitude of small scenes Mingsheng Pi – a Chinese painter based in Zagreb and Tintin’s owner – tells, almost without words, a gentle and cheerful story about animals and people, showing an exceptional talent to spot details and, with just a few strokes of his brush, to evoke a space, an atmosphere, characters, and their relations. Readers of all ages will enjoy Tintin’s adventures, and the youngest among them will learn something new about dogs and their humans – like the importance a dog may have for a with hearing-impaired person.
Don’t let the title fool you – in these witty micro-stories the end of the world is happening on an (almost) everyday level and “other trifles” may have an unexpected depth. Miniatures by Sanja Lovrenčić, organized in eight “chapters”, seemingly adapted to the short attention span of a modern reader, take into account things like morning-garbage-squads, polar bear wisdom, exodus of delivery people, time-stay-machines, mythical journeys and metaphorical animals. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes meditative, the author’s voice stays firm in defending the art of painting/playing with words and especially vocal against false/alternative literature that (allegedly) paints reality, media, and politics.
In Zvjezdana Jembrih’s third poetry collection all the potentials of her writing merge and come to full expression. Inspired by the specific space, a village in the Split hinterland, the author creates a series of impressive records, reaching a rare level of literary quality. Details from the chosen environment become triggers for surprising images in which the near and the far, the real and the unreal mix, with not even a shadow of sentimentality or commonplace thinking. The poems gathered in this book were created over several years, by slow distillation of the essentials. The result of this process captivates with the range of poetic imagination, the purity and consistency of the concept, the harmonious blending of direct observation, unobtrusive erudition and the ability to translate into a unique language the emotions stirred by different aspects of a (neglected) landscape and its inhabitants.
Although it could seem that the primary origin of this poetry is the world of words – the author recurrently affirms the experience of reading as something very much alive and inspiring – the contact with her own material environment is equally important for Lidija Dujić. And no matter how linguistically complex, surprising, metaphorical this poetry is, and how far it takes (ironic) distance from reality, it always remains tied to the real moment that triggered poetic imagination and caused poetic language to flow. Singling out some moments, turning flashes of reality into a thoughtful linguistic structure, the poet creates original and meditative images, with a clear awareness of poetry as non-ordinary speech.
The story about Ema – written by Vanja Marković, an expert in inclusive and social pedagogy – deals with an important topic of our time: the way people perceive each other. Roaming the streets of her hometown, the little heroine is trying to find someone to play with. She encounters a whole bunch of various characters, but they notice only her looks – her shaggy hair, her huge eyes, her dirty jacket. They all nag her and none of them wants to follow her imagination, but her ideas for games remain on pages, as possibilities for readers themselves to develop. In the end even Ema repeats the pattern that surrounds her: when a yellow cat asks her to play with it she refuses the invitation, thinking that a black cat would be much more interesting. In a playful way the story opens the readers’ eyes to the wrongs implied in superficial ways of looking at others. The storyteller’s style is simple and flowing, very well adapted to the target group of readers (6-8). The illustrations by Vibor Juhas complement and enrich the text; they are close to the aesthetics of comic books and full of little visual surprises.
In this picture book Croatian author Igor Rajki, winner of the prestigious Grigor Vitez award and the award of the Fairy tale festival of Ogulin, deals with a contemporary issue – the issue of the excessive presence of electronic devices and their screens in our everyday life. He does this in an original way, using his distinctive imaginative poetic language, kindling the readers’ imagination and making them think at the same time. The narrator of the story is giving, as if he were a professor of some kind, a lesson about ‘assembling of darkness in the dark’ – an enchanting phenomenon that occurs at the end of the day, in closed spaces, when darkness begins to descend from the ceiling and rise from the floor; the two darknesses embrace each other and slowly turn into the thick dark. But that is not all; during their game they create small sprouts, so called darklets. Darklets playfully twirl around objects, taming their shapes and leaving no trace. But when various screens start to interfere, a problem occurs: grayish shadows appear where darklets should be… The literary story about darklets is narrated in another, visual language by Klasja Habjan, a young illustrator and designer. She creates impressive, secretive life in spaces on the edge between night and day, spaces inhabited by fleeting human and animal figures, fragments of objects and fragments of their interactions; she does this with extraordinary inventiveness, on a very high aesthetic level, making this book attractive not only for reading but also for (repeated) viewing. By offering the youngest readers an utterly unusual visual experience, Klasja Habjan broadens the concept of what a picture book can be, and opens up the space of children’s book for new ways of artistic expression.
Luka Mavretić’s third poetry collection “All My People But Me” is a series of “inner journeys” – journeys that the author announces in the first poems of this very thoughtfully built piece. The young poet balances between lyrical verses and prosaic sentences, he strives towards a refined simplicity and manages to create a conversational tone, which is an important building block of his poetical world. An abundance of motives and a diary-like directness make this book an interesting and fresh collection. Even though he uses interpunction which creates finished, harmonical sentences and gives the text a prosaic tone, his verses remain verses, lines with a natural and easy flow. Despite a breezy atmosphere that the author creates, this is a collection of well thought-through and refined texts – Luka Mavretić is a poet who, in an alchemy of words, transforms chosen glimpses of reality into memorable and luminous images.
Jana Prević Finderle’s “Herbarium” could both be seen as a follow-up to her debut “The travertine bridge”, published in 2019, and its sheer opposite. One could argue that it’s a follow-up, because it is a book of short prose inspired by the author’s own experiences, delivered in a simple and direct way – and that it’s an opposite, as “The travertine bridge” was dedicated to travels and encounters, a horizontal motion through space, while “Herbarium”, a book about the lives of plants and the people closest to the author, focuses on travelling vertically, through time. For every herbarium, including Jana’s, is a book of memories. It seems that we live in times of increased sensitivity for the green world that surrounds us, a world that is getting more endangered with every day. But Jana’s soft spot for plantlife isn’t a result of any trend, although the need to create a herbarium made of words could have been influenced by the increasing eco-awareness in times of global warming. This author has, since early childhood, been living her life in close connection to plantlife, which enables her to talk about it from a personal, almost lyrical, perspective. Her authentic language depicts a simple closeness. The focus doesn’t lie on a problem or on the author’s knowledge of botany – which she clearly has – but rather on her personal experiences, her discoveries, little miracles she encounters, like the ones where her aunt Mirjana, in Jana’s adolescent days of spleen, tells her about an acorn and an oak.
The heroine of the story about the ‘topsy-turvy island’ Palagruža is the girl Gorjana who has to cope with a great change in her life: her father got a job as a lighthouse keeper, and she is moving with her family to a faraway island in the Adriatic Sea, lonely and strange, with no children to play with. Despite the sadness she feels leaving her friends and well-known environment, she boldly accepts the unknown and starts exploring her new homeplace. When with a group of fishermen who seasonally come
to the waters around Palagruža comes a girl, only a little older than Gorjana, the exploration of the ‘topsy-turvy island’ goes on in a deeper and merrier way, enriched with a friendship. Illustrations for this picture book are joint work of the text writer Lana Momirski who drew them and the visual artist Ivana Koren Madžarac who added colour, turning them into rich marine watercolours which will draw the young readers into the exciting island world.
As night falls, the world we see is changing. What seemed familiar under daylight now becomes strange and mysterious. And this might be the reason why night inspires artists to fantasize about it over and over again. The author of this picture books sees Night as a woman in a starry dress, a queen both young and olden, who arrives with her suite of nocturnal creatures, blending dream with reality. She creates space for clocks without pointers, enigmatic encounters, tea-drinking animals. She waves her hand, and wondrous beings obey her, whether on land or at sea. She waves her hand, and beginnings of stories begin to unfold, flags of faraway kingdoms start flying. A mixture of ages, fairy-tale motives and outer space travel comes to life wherever she goes. There is no obstacle for voyagers in her darkness, every direction is good, on every side unending expanse of her realm… And as she leaves – look, who bids her farewell on the balcony there, who is returning home climbing those stairs? – dreams leave with her, they all go to sleep. That’s what Jasmina’s night is like, wide open for the fantasy of her readers.
Marija in Cities belongs to the series of Sanja Lovrenčić’s picture books about Croatian visual artists; this one is about the well-known photographer Marija Braut. The story about her is told from the viewpoint of her inseparable companion, the analogue camera, which directly and simply reports on their shared travels and work, the motifs of Marija’s photography, and her feeling for people and spaces, which the camera sometimes shared with the artist, and at other times just longed for calm scenes that are easier to capture. This is a lyrically intoned, very subtle depiction of the artist’s life and work, filled with a vestige of nostalgia for the great age of analogue photography, but also with hope in its preservation. In addition, the author offers the young readers an easy-to-understand introduction to the basics of this art technique.(Adrian Pelc, ed)
The little girl Piccola shows an unusual feeling for sounds. Imitating the chirping of birds, the crackling of fire, the sounds of the wind and everything else that surrounds her, Piccola amazes the listeners singing her little melodies. When she comes to a
music school and old Professore starts teaching her to play the piccolo, the smallest girl with the smallest flute becomes ‘Piccola con piccolo’; her Bird Music becomes a huge success and she is invited to perform all over the world. Piccola con piccolo
is the first picture book written by Bruno Mezić. Creating a likable character of the little girl Piccola,
telling about her adventures in sound, and skillfully playing with Italian words, the author introduces young readers to the terminology of classical music. Illustrations by the young visual artist and designer Klasja Habjan imaginatively and playfully follow the text and bring to life the original little heroine and her music.
Imagination and a certain freedom in his relation to language as well as an authentic poetical experience characterize Josip Čekolj’s first poetry collection. In four parts – four zeals – the lyrical voice of this young and talented author celebrates the novelty of his first worlds, from the home region, both in a concrete and a symbolic form, to the world of family and first loves. The magic of these poems mostly arises from the peculiar shifts from real to surreal, from bright images that depict an underlying emotion. The author builds his space of words, a space that is built from moments he has experienced. This space is often related to motives that originate in nature and in traditional culture, but it is consistently original, full of surprises and freshness.
Biljana Romić, born in 1960, is a Croatian indologist and cultural editor. She gained her Master of Arts title in 1997 in Zagreb, with a study of Bharati Mukherjee and postcolonial migrant faiths. She has ever since actively been researching and writing about postcolonialism and the notion of the Other. Her extensive study The women’s world of British India was written after she spent several years studying diaries and letters written by “memsahibs”. Her work is not simply a historical overview of their lives and roles during colonialism, it puts colonial history, literature and the notion of the “Other” in a contemporary critical context; Romić analyses over one hundred and fifty sources, including Indrani Sen, Amandeep Kaur, Kumari Jayawardena and Shashi Tharoor. When reading about the British colonial venture in India, we mostly encounter works that have been written from the male perspective of conquests and regimen – but colonial women have, almost from the very beginning, been a part of this venture. Biljana Romić’s book brings us the voices of these women and their lives. They journeyed into the unknown, often not prepared for the adversities of a different climate and the social roles they were going to find themselves in. They went into the unknown as wives, governesses, teachers, as young women in search of a husband; sometimes as entrepreneurs, missionaries, adventurers. Many stayed within the expected roles given by the British colonial community, but some of them showed that it is possible to overcome the limitations of their era, class and gender when it comes to their relation to India and Indians. Biljana Romić talks about the so-called “little history”, the one that appears on the margins of big historical events – and without which it is impossible to gain a complete picture of a time that has passed.