12 Top Polish Children’s Books Illustrators & Designers
#language & literature
small, 12 Top Polish Children’s Books Illustrators & Designers, 'Mi Sie' by Monika Hanulak, mural design, photo: courtesy of the artist, hanulak_mural_mi_sie.jpg
They create stories with images, boldly interpreting classics and drawing on storied traditions – a reminder that young people, too, can appreciate art. Thanks to these Polish illustrators, the youngest generation has plenty of beautiful books to choose from.
1. Marta Ignerska
It seems that none of the dozen or so books that Marta Ignerska has illustrated have gone unnoticed. One of the most talented and most successful graphic designers of her generation, she has designed and illustrated numerous books, beloved around the globe, for kids and adults alike. She plays with form; she dusts off and comments on classics, such as the poems of Jerzy Ludwik Kern and Julian Tuwim. As she freshens up symbols, she draws out sounds through varied techniques.
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Ignerska’s Wielkie Marzenia (Big Dreams) is printed in newspaper format and consists of 21 charts full of colorful dreams, drawn on grey paper. In Alfabet (Alphabet), her letters transform into playful characters, while the story Fryderyk Chopin i Jego Muzyka (Frederic Chopin and His Music) is told with markers, pencils and pens. The award-winning book Wszystko Gra (All Play), written by Anna Czerwińska-Rydel, masterfully explains to the youngest readers what sounds, music and a symphony orchestra are.
The illustrator has received the Book of the Year Award from the Polish Section of IBBY and the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award in the Non-Fiction category, the winner out of more than a thousand books for children from 31 countries. In March 2017, Ignerska, Olga Tokarczuk, Jacek Dehnel and Zygmunt Miłoszewski represented Poland at the London Book Fair.
2. Aleksandra Mizielińska & Daniel Mizieliński (Hipopotam Studio)
Antartica, from 'MAPS' by Aleksandra Mizielińska & Daniel Mizieliński, Dwie Siostry Publishing, photo: The Book Institute / www.instytutksiazki.pl
This 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 (originally: MAPY) was included in The New York Times’ Best Books of 2016 list.
With this book, Aleksandra and Daniel have conquered faraway lands, winning the hearts of millions of readers big and small in more than 20 countries. The 4000 illustrations were created over the course of three years. Moreover, the Mizielińskis created the fonts Mrs. White and Cartographer especially for their own publications.
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The series H.O.U.S.E. (originally: D.O.M.E.K.), D.E.S.I.G.N. and A.R.T. (originally: S.Z.T.U.K.A.), as well as Underground, Underwater (originally: Pod Ziemią, Pod Wodą) – a comics-style guide to underground labyrinths and marine expanses – have also been translated into many languages.
3. Paweł Pawlak
The cover & spread from the book '13 Bajek z Królestwa Lailonii dla Dużych i Małych' (13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for Readers Big and Small) by Paweł Pawłak, photo: Znak Emotikon Publishing
His name found its way onto a list of the 75 best illustrators from around the world, who presented their work at a prestigious exhibition during the 54th Bologna Children’s Book Fair. So far, Paweł Pawlak has designed more than 80 books for kids – but it was his black and white illustrations for the book by Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski that captured the attention of the jury in Bologna.
13 Bajek z Królestwa Lailonii dla Dużych i Małych (13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for Readers Big and Small) was also named Book of the Year 2015 by the Polish Section of IBBY in the Graphic Design category. The artist works with publishing houses in Poland, France, United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea and Canada.
4. Emilia Dziubiak
Emilia Dziubiak has an extraordinary imagination and great talent. Her debut came in 2011, with the incredibly popular original cookbook for kids, Gratka dla Małego Niejadła (Treats for Fussy Eaters) – which made into the finals of a prestigious competition for the most beautiful picture books in South Korea. She has since illustrated more than 40 books for children.
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Her work has graced the pages of Tyczka w Krainie Szczęścia (A Pole in the Land of Happiness) by Martina Widmarska (Mamania Publishing); Proszę Mnie Przytulić (Please Hug Me) by Przemysław Wechterowicz, which was added to the Warsaw Museum of Children’s Books’ List of Treasures; as well as Rok w Lesie (A Year in the Woods), featuring 12 detailed illustrations of the woods and its inhabitants at different times of the day and night.
5. Małgorzata Gurowska
'Lokomotywa / IDEOLO' (Locomotive/ IDEOLO) by Małgorzata Gurowska, 2013, Fundacja Sztuczna & Wytwórnia Publishing, photo: Małgorzata Turczyńska
Małgorzata Gurowska is the creator of bold graphic interpretations of poems by Julian Tuwim, bravely moving them into the 21st century. In Lokomotywa / IDEOLO (Locomotive / IDEOLO), she applies his pre-war rhymes to contemporary themes. These images can be ‘read’ in a single glance!
Gurowska's work has been recognised by numerous awards, including the 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).
6. Monika Hanulak
Monika Hanulak, who along with Małgorzata Gurowska and Grażka Lange, is part of the informal CMYK Group. Her works have been met with great enthusiasm both in Poland and abroad. She has designed Smonia, many books by Julian Tuwim and Pampilio 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.
The artist 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, Hanulak created a 2017 calendar for Wytwórnia Publishing. You can hang it on the wall or draw on it and solve puzzles.
7. Anna Niemierko
Anna Niemerko is 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 Niemierko's illustrations, Tuwim’s famous Słoń Trąbalski (Trąbalski's Elephant) took on entirely new and original shape, and the eye-catching book acquired a cheeky quality.
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The illustrator bets on honesty. In an interview with Beata Kęczkowska, Niemierko shared:
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 special in and of themselves.
She also illustrated the part of Ilustrowany Elementarz Designu (My First Illustrated Design Book) by Ela Solarz, titled What's Going on Here? (Co Tu Jest Grane?).
8. Jan Bajtlik
Jan 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 and has worked with, among others, The New York Times and Time Magazine.
An illustration from 'Typogryzmoł' (Alphadoodler) by Jan Bajtlik, Dwie Siostry Publishing, photo: Dwie Siostry Publishing promotional materials
For Dwie Siostry Publishing, he has illustrated Auto, Korek (Traffic Jam), as well as Typogryzmoł (Alphadoodler) – a literary typography lesson for kids, in which letters are disguised as skyscrapers and transform into animals. The book's wordplay and ‘picture-play’ make for great fun for little readers. The bold shapes make your imagination run wild.
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Typogrzymoł earned the artist an honourable mention in Bologna. In 2011, he also received an honourable mention for Europę Pingwina Popo (Popo the Peguin’s Europe) from the Polish Section of IBBY in the Book of the Year category. Wojtek spod Monte Cassino (Wojtek from Monte Cassino) by Wiesław Antoni Lasocki from Muchomor Publishing, featuring Bajtlik's illustrations, was also nominated by IBBY in 2012.
9. Joanna Rusinek
Along with Michał Pawłowski, Joanna Rusinek runs the graphic design studio Kreska i Kropka (Line and Dot), which designs book covers, posters and visual branding. She typically works with traditional tools, such as watercolours on paper. Rusinek has illustrated a book of poems by Wisława Szymborska and poetry books for kids by Jarosław Mikołajewski. In Nabu’s Journey (Wędrówka Nabu), a moving book about the greatest contemporary humanitarian crises, her gently unnerving, somewhat metaphorical drawings complement the painful story of a Syrian girl running away from the war.
Rusinek uses her frugal colour palette – greys, blacks and whites – in other books as well, such as Bezsenność Jutki (Jutka’s Sleeplessness), a book about a child’s life in the Łódź Ghetto. She has also illustrated more lighthearted, fun and colourful books, including those written by her brother, Michał Rusinek, books of poetry for children, Co Ty Mówisz? Magia Słów czyli Retoryka dla Dzieci (What Are You Saying? The Magical Power of Words: Rhetoric for Kids) and Little Chopin (originally: Mały Chopin), about the talent of the young Frederic Chopin (which was translated into ten languages).
10. Marianna Oklejak
Vibrant and diverse traditional folklore with a modern twist – that, in a nutshell, is Marianna Oklejak’s Cuda Wianki, Polski Folklor dla Młodszych i Starszych (Cuda Wianki: Polish Folklore for the Young and the Old). Here, she shows that folklore is far from old-fashioned... It's hard to take your eyes off this book! In 2015, it received an award from the Polish Section of IBBY:
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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 Jestem Miasto: Warszawa (I Am the City: Warsaw). In chronological order, illustrated maps guide young readers through the tumultuous history of Poland's 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, elk or the Devil Rokita on their adventures through the centuries. History, topography, anecdotes.
It's worth keeping an eye out for her work!
11. Ola Woldańska-Płocińska
She came up with, wrote and illustrated a book about facial hair for adults, as well as books about fear and record-breakers. In Prawie Się Nie Boję (I’m Almost Not Scared) by Anna Onichimowska, she illustrated kids’ fears and feelings in her distinctive, clear style. In the lovely Rekordziści (Champions), Ola Woldańska-Płocińska presents some absurd records – such as a very shaggy sheep which dropped over 40 kilos of wool – with a certain lightness and humour.
'Rekordziści' by Ola Woldańska-Płocińska, photo: Wydawnictwo Czerwony Konik
She has also illustrated Cyferki (Numbers), Marchewki z Groszkiem (Peas and Carrots), Mrówka Wychodzi za Mąż (An Ant Gets Married), Dwa Albatrosy albo Alfabet Noego (Two Albatroses, or Noah’s Alphabet), Pierwsze Urodziny Prosiaczka (Piggy’s First Birthday) and Kocham Pana, Panie Tygrysie (I Love You, Mr. Tiger).
12. Agata Królak
Agata Królak is the author of numerous unusual culinary remixes. Her first books, Ciasta, Ciastka i Takie Tam (Cakes, Cookies and Other Stuff) and Z Działki, Z Lasu i Takie Tam (From the Garden, the Woods and Other Stuff), made up of family recipes, are nothing like common cookbooks. Agata Morka writes:
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Instead of ‘cookie-cutter’ photos of cutlets, Agata Królak creates 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.
Originally written in Polish by Anna Legierska; translated by NR, 15 Feb 2017
polish book design
polish school of illustration
Sources: www.polskailustracjadladzieci.pl, Polish Section of IBBY, promotional materials from publishing houses, Agata Morka’s articles on Culture.pl