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.
Addressing the children for the first time, the renowned Darkville, the setting and the main character of this picture book written by a distinguished author Iva Bezinović-Haydon, is a sad town: all plants are being systematically cut there. No one really knows whose idea that was, but two city officials play a significant role in its implementation. One of them stamps the word ‘NO’ on all requests for a change, the other maintains order with his cutting tools – until a little blue flower emerges from a crack in the asphalt and everything starts to change… Using simple words and an appealing plot, the author talks about the need humans feel for the living green world, for colors, diversity and freedom, but also about different ways of standing up to bad rules imposed from somewhere above – it can be done in a hidden manner, in private spaces, or openly, in public, joining forces with other people. The young illustrator Laura Martinović brought the story about Darkville to life with her playful and warm illustrations, full of creative visual ideas and details that enrich the text.
Miroslav Kirin’s book of travelogues brings together notes from different periods of the author’s life, but thanks to the coherence of his view and characteristic stylistic refinement, makes an organic whole. You could call it a kind of triptych: it starts with notes from Paris in 2005, the middle and most complex part is dedicated to the author’s sojourns in China, and the book ends with very short notes from various trips through Croatia. The author’s observations move in a wide range: from very simple everyday little things that catch his eye to the broad cultural issues of the Far East. Despite the variety of motives seen in the “touched regions”, the traveler’s eye shows the same curiosity and the same clarity. The moments he records often turn into micro-stories, and out of the multitude of human outlines that appear in his notes and notebooks, some gain fullness and turn into impressive characters. Poetry runs through Kirin’s “notelets” as a kind of weft – sometimes as initiator of travel, sometimes as an object of work and thought, sometimes as a latent awareness of the poetic values of language. Therefore, this book can give pleasure to both travel lovers and to all those who enjoy good literature.
In her second artist’s book, Agata Lučić takes readers of all generations to a flea market – an almost monochromatic blue world filled with various objects. Each thing there carries traces of time spent in someone’s life, traces of somebody’s past. The young visual artist evokes fragments of life that “forgotten things” shared with their humans in her original, very recognizable style, gradually creating a warm atmosphere – with bits of magic. The last double-page holds a surprise: as the objects manage to attract new owners and are being accepted along with their stories, various colors enter the world of the picture book. It is no longer a space of memories; it becomes a living space. “Forgotten Things” are both nostalgic and cheerful, they urge the reader to open up to hidden histories of unknown people and certain values accessible only to a watchful eye; they invite both children and adults to dream, offering a world of peculiar visual pleasure.
We acquire and discard things too easily, warns the author of this gentle and playful picture book; but even when they have already been discarded, left to their fate on the stands of some open-air “mini market”, they can be looked at, singled out from the crowd, appropriated, restored, and brought back to life.
The plot of this novel begins with the female narrator’s arrival on an unnamed Mediterranean island. She has inherited a house in an almost abandoned village and comes to see it; it is a good reason to get away from her daily struggles for a while. The landscape around her is nostalgically idyllic: crumbling stone houses, wild capers, homemade cheese, sunshine and wind. Everything suggests that there, at a distance from people, precarious jobs and urban routine, she’ll find a space for introspection, for facing her past, her desires and hopes. Along with the house, however, the narrator inherited a dovecot with a flock of pigeons bred by her deceased cousin, Toni. When she decides to release them from their prison, she has no idea that these homing birds will soon return to her along with six peculiar guests – Toni’s old friends. They organize a memorial party for him, and during three consecutive evenings they relate fragments of their shared past. Were they an international theater troupe that wandered the Mediterranean small towns in the seventies, or active participants in the political turmoil of the age of lead – it is difficult for the heroine to decide. At the end of the party, before they go away, the strange guests explain the true nature of her newly acquired inheritance: along with the house, she gets the obligation to tell their story, a story she did not fully grasp. And that’s where the Mediterranean idyll comes to an end: it will be replaced by a research into international terrorism in the 1970s, a personal revolt against the clash of wealth and poverty at that time and in the present, growing compassion for non-human living world and growing anger provoked by deadly business practices, cyber-subversions, anger, fear and escape. To the fragments of her guests’ stories the heroine will react creating her own, a story that she will – when the storm she provoked subsides – almost unintentionally leave as a legacy to the new generation.
Sophia, the little heroine of this story, wants to help her mother to bake a cake. Mom tells her to fetch the cake pan from the storage room, but Sophia is afraid of that dark space – she’s so afraid that she doesn’t even dare to stretch her arm to turn the light on. But then comes her dad and gives her a pair of special eyeglasses – eyeglasses that make the world look different. And more than that! They not only change the look of things in darkness, but also give the person wearing them the ability to talk with animals. Looking through the magic eyeglasses, Sophia meets a spider in the storage room and a moth in her bedroom. As she opens a window, she sees a weasel and a saturnia moth in the garden. Her encounters with these creatures show that beings who look nice are not always nice – and vice versa. This warm and breezy story teaches young readers self-confidence, the importance of getting to know someone before making a judgment, as well as the fact that first impressions are not always reliable.
There are three love stories in this book – three stories about love that is unattainable because of the very nature of those who fall in love. But that doesn’t make these feelings less powerful. The buoy and the anchor are waiting for a storm that will bring them together, even though buoys are made for floating and anchors for anchoring. The sun is trying to shine less intensely so it could love the snow longer, while the snow enjoys basking in the sunshine, even though it melts in love. And the sea and the sky are the greatest of all, eternal lovers, always mirroring each other, coming together and moving apart…
The stories that Igor Rajki tells in this picture book – actually, he “mumbles them as he walks” – are original, peculiarly humorous, and full of linguistic invention, with a number of made-up words, collected in the end in a little author’s dictionary. The illustrator Nikolina Žabčić responds to the playfulness of the text with equal artistic freedom.
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