12 Children’s Books Illustrators and Designers Worth Knowing
They create books written in images, boldly interpret classics and drawing on the best traditions of the Polish school of illustration, remind us that young readers can also appreciate art. Thanks to these Polish illustrators, the youngest generation have plenty of beautiful books to choose from.
It seems that none of the dozen or so books that Marta Ignerska has illustrated have gone unnoticed. She is one of the most talented and most successful graphic designers of her generation, she has designed and illustrated numerous books, for kids and adults alike, beloved around the globe. She plays with form, dusts off and comments on classics such as the poems of Jerzy Ludwik Kern and Julian Tuwim, she freshens up symbols and draws sounds using different techniques.
Ignerska’s Big Dreams (Wielkie Marzenia) is printed in newspaper format and consists of 21 charts full of colorful dreams drawn on gray paper. In Alphabet (Alfabet), her letters transform into funny characters, while the story Frederic Chopin and His Music (Fryderyk Chopin i Jego Muzyka) is told with markers, pencils and pens. The award-winning book All Play (Wszystko Gra), written by Anna Czerwińska-Rydel, masterfully explains to the youngest readers what sounds, music and a symphony orchestra are.
She has received the Book of the Year Award awarded by the Polish Section of IBBY and the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award in the Non-Fiction category, beating over a thousand books for children from 31 countries. In March 2017, Marta Ignerskaa, Olga Tokarczuk, Jacek Dehnel and Zygmunt Miłoszewski will represent Poland at the London Book Fair.
Aleksandra Mizielińska & Daniel Mizieliński, Hipopotam Studio
The husband and wife duo needs no introduction. They have found a niche and developed their own unique style and brand in the children’s book market. Their large format, polished and visually stunning visual Maps were included in the New York Times’ Best Books of 2016 list. Aleksandra and Daniel have conquered faraway lands and won over the hearts of millions of readers big and small in over 20 countries. The 4000 illustrations were created over three years. Moreover, the Mizieliński’s created the fonts Mrs. White and Cartographer especially for their publications.
The series H.O.U.S.E. (D.O.M.E.K.), D.E.S.I.G.N. and A.R.T. (S.Z.T.U.K.A.), as well as the comic-style guide to underground labyrinths and marine expanses Underground, Underwater (Pod Ziemią, Pod Wodą), have also been translated into many languages.
His last name found its way onto a list of the 75 best illustrators from around the world, who in April 2017, will present their work at a prestigious exhibition during the 54th Bologna Children’s Book Fair. So far, Paweł Pawlak has designed over 80 books for kids, but it was his black and white illustrations for the book by Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski that really got the attention of the jury in Bologna.
13 stories from the Kingdom of Lailonia (13 bajek z Królestwa Lailonii dla dużych i małych) was also named Book of the Year 2015 in the Graphic Design category by the Polish Section of IBBY. The artist works with publishing houses from Poland, France, United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea and Kanada.
Dziubak has an extraordinary imagination and great talent. She debuted in 2011 with the incredibly popular original cookbook for kids Treats for Fussy Eaters, which made into the finals of a prestigious competition for the most beautiful picture books in South Korea. Emilia Dziubak has illustrated over 40 publications, among others a book about the Pożyczalski family published by Dwie Siostry Publishing, A Pole in the Land of Happiness (Tyczka w Krainie Szczęścia) by Martina Widmarska (Mamania Publishing), Please Hug Me (Proszę Mnie Przytulić) by Przemysław Wechterowicz, which was added to the Warsaw Museum of Children’s Books’ List of Treasures, as well as A Year in the Woods (Rok w Lesie), a unique publications, which consists of 12 detailed illustrations of the woods and its inhabitants at different times of day and night.
Małgorzata Gurowska is the creator of bold graphic interpretations of poems by Julian Tuwim, bravely moving them into the 21st century, comparing Locomotive's pre-war rhymes with contemporary themes. These images can be ‘read’ in a single breath!
These awards make this clear: Bologna Ragazzi Award, Book of the Year 2007 awarded by the Polish Section of IBBY, an honorable mention in the Most Beautiful Books of the Year 2007 organised by the Polish Book Publishers Association (Polskie Towarzystwo Wydawców Książek) and a special mention at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (2009).
Works by Monika Hanulak, who along with Małgorzata Gurowska and Grażka Lange, is part of the informal CMYK Group, were met with great enthusiasm both in Poland and abroad. She designed Smonia, many of Julian Tuwim’s books and Pampilia by Irena Tuwim for Wytwórnia Publishing. Agata Morka reviewed the latter for Culture.pl:
Her vector drawings for Irena Tuwim’s Pampilia are kept in a frugal range of colours (…) She combines simplicity with sharp shapes and plays with repetition, creating rhythmic pictures which complement the text.
She has made illustrations for two French publishing houses: Goldilocks and the Two Bears (Boucle d’or et les deux ours) and Lirabelle’s history of evolution It Was a Crocodile: A Brief History of Evolution (C'etait un crocodile. Petite histoire de l'evolution). Recently, with Grażka Lange, she created a 2017 calendar for Wytwórnia Publishing. You can just hang it on the wall or draw on it and solve puzzles.
One of seven artists who have illustrated Wywtórnia’s Tuwim series – the reinterpretation of his poems resulted in an award from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. With Niemerko’s illustrations, Tuwim’s famous Słoń Trąbalski took on entirely new and original shape and the eye-catching book acquired a cheeky quality.
In her work, Anna Niemierko bets on honesty. In an interview with Beata Kęczkowska, she said:
I run away from literalism, bluntness, precision. I try to avoid them – we try to name everything all too often. We take away space for the imagination (…) I appreciate children’s illustrations that have some features of a work of art, that are, themselves, special.
She also illustrated part of the My First Illustrated Design Book (Ilustrowany Elementarz Designu) called What's Going on Here? (Co Tu Jest Grane?).
Bajtlik is an illustrator and author of original books and posters. He is one of the youngest (born in 1989) and most talented creators of books for children. He has won numerous awards in both Polish and international graphic design competitions, he has worked with, among others, The New York Times and Time Magazine.
For Dwie Siostry Publishing he has illustrated Auto, Traffic Jam (Korek) and Alphadoodler (Typogryzmoł), a literary typography lesson for kids, in which letters are disguised as skyscrapers and transform into animals – wordplays and ‘pictureplays’ which are great fun for little readers. The bold shapes make your imagination run wild. Alphadoodler earned him an honourable mention in Bologna. In 2011, he also received an honourable mention for Popo the Peguin’s Europe (Europę Pingwina Popo) from the Polish Section of IBBY in the Book of the Year category and Wojtek from Monte Cassino (Wojtek spod Monte Cassino, Muchomor Publishing) with his illustrations was also nominated by IBBY in 2012.
Vibrant and diverse traditional folklore with a modern twist. That, in a nutshell, is Marianna Oklejak’s Cuda Wianki: Polish Folklore for the Young and the Old (Cuda Wianki, Polski Folklor dla Młodszych i Starszych) in which she shows that folklore is not old-fashioned. It is hard to take your eyes of this book! In 2015, the book received an award from the Polish Section of IBBY:
This book is bursting with a riot of colours and forms and has such an original take on Polish folk art, which will make readers of any age appreciate the power of folklore. It consists of 36 pages organised according to the seasons and the rhythm of life. It is a unique book – at the highest artistic level.
Oklejak is also the author of an unusual guide I am the City: Warsaw (Jestem Miasto. Warszawa). Illustrated maps in chronological order guide young readers through the tumultuous history of the capital. The artist paints the scenery of important places and events in the city’s history. The artist explains:
From the legendary forests full of beasts, through partitions, war, martial law until present day. (...) Here you can follow Prince Pepi, Eugeniusz Bodo or elk or the Devil Rokita on their adventures through the centuries. History, topography, anecdotes.
It's worth keeping an eye out for her work!
She came up with, wrote and illustrated a book about facial hair for adults and books about fear and record-breakers. In I’m Almost Not Scared (Prawie Się Nie Boję) by Anna Onichimowska, she illustrated kids’ fears and feelings in her distinctive, clear style. In the lovely Champions (Rekordzistach), Ola Woldańska-Płocińska with a certain lightness and good humour presents some absurd records such as a very shaggy sheep which dropped over 40 kilos of wool.
She ha salso illustrated Numbers (Cyferki), Peas and Carrots (Marchewki z Groszkiem), Ant Gets Married (Mrówka Wychodzi za Mąż), Two Albatroses or Noah’s Alphabet (Dwa Albatrosy albo Alfabet Noego), Piggy’s First Birthday (Pierwsze Urodziny Prosiaczka) and I Love You, Mr. Tiger (Kocham Pana, Panie Tygrysie).
The author of numerous unusual culinary remixes. Her debuts Cakes, Cookies and Other Stuff (Ciasta, Ciastka i Takie Tam) and From the Garden, the Woods and Other Stuff (Z Działki, Z Lasu i Takie Tam) made up of family recipes are nothing like common cookbooks. Agata Morka writes:
Instead of ‘cookie-cutter’ photos of cutlets, Agata Królak creats compositions out of newspaper clippings, blots and doodles. To create these intriguing remixes, the artist uses among other things, photographs taken at New York flea markets, successfully combining them with text written as if in a first-graders notebook.
Sources: Polish Illustrations for Kids, Polish Section of IBBY, promotional materials from publishing houses, Agata Morka’s articles on Culture.pl, written by AL, translated by NR, 15 Feb 2017