When I am looking for titles from a new destination, I often find a wealth of interesting material about the children’s publishing scene in that country. Most of this information is online and available to anyone who is prepared to dig around a little. Here is what I discovered when was researching picture book titles from Slovenia.
One name in particular kept cropping up in my searches: Lila Prap, otherwise known as Lilijana Praprotnik Zupančič. Her books, including bestseller Why? are known around the world and have been translated into more than 30 different languages. Prap’s publisher, Mladinska Knjiga Publishing House is the largest in Slovenia and actively promotes its books overseas. Another of its success stories is A Boy and a House, a wordless picture book by Maja Kastelic, which was awarded the Kristina Brenkova Award for an original picture book in 2015. Kastelic has a new wordless picture book, The Little Girl and the Garden due out this year.
Miš Publishing House is another Slovenian publishing house that is present on the international stage. Visit its website and you’ll find overviews in English of a fascinating range of children’s and YA titles. One book in particular caught my eye, O kravi ki je lajala v luno (The Cow that Barked at the Moon), by Ida Mlakar, illustrated by Peter Škerl. This title, which is not currently available in English, was listed as a White Ravens selection in 2016. It features an old cow named Mrvica (Crumb), who takes off on a bike and has many adventures before meeting a tired old horse and finding happiness at the seaside. I’d love to see this book, even though I wouldn’t be able to read it. In this extract from a 2017 article in Bookbird, Peter Škerl is described as ‘one of the most remarkable representatives of the Slovenian younger generation of illustrators.’
In a recent Asymptote podcast featuring Slovenian-English translator Olivia Hellewell, I was interested to learn that the Slovenian government puts huge effort into promoting Slovenian literature abroad. Translators from around the world are invited to take part in seminars and provide samples that publishers can then promote at book fairs – a massive undertaking for a country with a population of just over 2 million! Incidentally in the same podcast, I also learnt that the terms Slovene literature and Slovenian literature can be used interchangeably. (I’ve opted to use Slovenian in this and subsequent posts, but I’ll no doubt slip up at some stage).
A number of academic articles on Slovenian children’s literature are available online, written by Milena Mileva Blažić, a Slovenian literary historian and professor of children’s literature at the University of Ljubljana. They include this short piece on the history and development of Slovenian children’s literature and a survey of Slovenian women fairy tale writers.
As part of this month’s celebration of world kid lit, I plan to feature reviews of two (or hopefully three) titles by Slovenian book creators on Planet Picture Book and the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog, which I am honoured to be guest editing this month. I also hope to feature an interview about a Slovenian picture book that will be available to English-speaking readers in 2020. More to come!
Note: An edited version of this post was published on the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog on 6 September 2019. It is one in a series of posts celebrating world kid lit month.[Image: Ljubljana, Slovenia – Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica (National and University Library) by jaime.silva made available under a creative commons licence. Source: flickr.com]