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Ema is Alone


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 Darktown, 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 Darktown to life with her playful and warm illustrations, full of creative visual ideas and details that enrich the text.   

Forgotten Things


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.


Book #4909

Red Pigeons


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.

The Magic Eyeglasses


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.


Book #4906

Love, Lovest, Loverest


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.


Book #4905

The Flawless Mirror


The face of the heroine of this artist’s picture book is full of spots, her body full of hair, there’s the word “Fat” floating around her, her breasts are so little you can barely see them. But these aren’t flaws – despite the fact that a glamorous “face from a magazine cover” also finds its way into the story. Flaw as a concept simply does not exist for this mirror. Without hiding anything, and with an untameable smile, the heroine keeps looking at herself exactly as she is. No imposed beauty standards intimidate her. No threatening words („Carnegiea gigantea”!), nor horrendous images (monkey-like hairiness or a body too big for a bathtub) make her flinch…

Using humorous and expressive forms, the author of this book, Agata Lučić, invites readers – primarily young, female readers – to take a look in the flawless mirror and to accept their bodies such as they are, with a smile on their face.


Book #4904

Night on Earth


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.


Book #4746



The Marauders Deep in Sludge


With a fresh new voice, and yet in the most beautiful tradition of the novel for the young, Josip Čekolj tells the adventures of his marauders – four friends on the verge of adulthood. The town they roam about and the dialect they speak might be completely made up, but their loves and confusions, conflicts and fallacies, as well as their need for safety and warmth, are very real indeed. While they go through “deep sludge”, they encounter some, more or less reliable characters, mainly from the margins of society. Most important among them might be the old lady with the cats and ear for poetry. As it usually goes in coming-of-age novels, wandering through mud eventually becomes a step toward adulthood. The young author started writing this story after attending Dominik Vuković’s exhibition called “Marauders and frogs”, where this talented illustrator reminiscences his childhood. Dominik has illustrated the story, which has resulted in a special connection between the text that depicts the marauders’ endeavors and the drawings that follow them.


Book #4908

Letters for Everyone


This playful and cheerful book is perfect for those learning to read as well as for those who are helping them in this endeavor. Every of thirty very short stories – in which numerous characters, both human and animal, appear – is dominated by one single letter. This letter can be searched for, with ears or eyes, and every story can be continued. This unique spelling book invites the reader to play whereby it turns gaining reading habits into an easy and fun project.

Herbarium – Stories of Plants


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.

All My People But Me


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.

Heroes and Dragons on the Decline


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.

The Female World of the British Raj


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.

Sketch for a Heroine


As a poet of proven skills, Sanja Lovrenčić sketches a mysterious heroine. Who is she? After reading, it is up to us to conclude. Or to let her continue to take shape within us for a long time. For, this collection of poems counts on the cooperation of a careful watcher and listener, a curious reader sensitive to language and its beyond. Sanja Lovrenčić invites us on an adventurous poetic journey through the poems/episodes of a very special, never fully expressible or sharply drawn protagonist, with whose joys, doubts, insights and resignations we easily empathise. (Dorta Jagić, ed.)

Longlisted for the Kamov Award 2021