Subversive fairy tales, children’s manifestos, modern science fiction novels and albums dedicated to 100 years of Polish design history. From over 200 IBBY Polish Section competition entries, the jury selected 16 books for children and young people that stood out in terms of their literary merits, editorial style and whimsical illustrations. We simply can’t wait until these are translated into English!
Book of the Year literary awards
Katarzyna Ryrych, Łopianowe Pole, Adamada Publishers
Jack Sparrow sits in a walnut tree, holding a storm cloud on a string, somebody turns into a frog, and boredom escapes from Mrs. (Pani) Dora’s box. Relax, it’s only magic! The characters in Katarzyna Ryrych’s award-winning Łopianowe Pole (editor’s translation: Burdock Field) dream of growing up without losing their magical outlook on the world or that miracle of childhood – the belief in the power of fairy tales. Weronika Kostecka’s review underlined how the book interweaves authentic experiences and emotions with a surreal atmosphere, gravitas with charming humour, and children’s problems with delight and joy at the (extra)ordinary reality.
This is a warm, wise and psychologically profound tale – which could be said of any story by Katarzyna Ryrych. In Siedem Sowich Piór (Seven Owl Feathers), she wrote about a 10-year-old boy with cancer, and Wyspa Mojej Siostry (My Sister’s Island) was about a family, in which one of the young sisters has Down syndrome. The extraordinary adventures of the ordinary children in Łopianowe Pole were illustrated by Grażyna Rigall. This is a must-read.
Marcin Szczygielski, Serce Neftydy (Nephthys’ Heart), Latarnik Publishers
Serce Neftydy is the first science fiction story in the popular, award-winning writer Marcin Szczygielski’s portfolio. For its protagonist, Effi, life comes crashing down one day, and he must embark on a great interplanetary adventure to unravel a major mystery. Irena Bolek described the book as an intellectual conundrum for thinking readers, an excellent contemporary novel, thrillingly structured and brilliantly witty. Warning! Even those who dislike sci-fi won’t be able to resist Nephthys’ Heart. A well-earned award!
Book of the Year award for illustrations
Urszula Palusińska, Brzuchem do Góry (Belly Up), Dwie Siostry Publishers
The art of accepting boredom. Urszula Palusińska’s illustrated book is for people in mid-winter who can’t wait for summer, to lie nonchalantly, belly-up on the grass. The world seems completely different from that perspective. The jurors assure us that this kind of rest can reawaken an observer’s dormant senses, reviving their primal childlike wonderment at the world. Then all you want to do is lie back and stare up into the sky!
The ABCs of Polish Design, various authors, published by Wytwórnia and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute
It's not easy to show one hundred years of Polish design in just one hundred objects. Which ones were really the most important? The most intriguing? How does one choose? How does one show more than just the iconic designs that everyone knows? This beautiful new publication features 100 amazing Polish designs alongside young Polish illustrators’ interpretations of them.
The album presents examples of designs for furniture, glass, porcelain, as well as fonts, logos, children’s toys, and even packaging. The publishers and authors have managed to avoid the temptation to ‘overdesign’ the book, which was particularly praised by the jury. This is a book you can dip into repeatedly.
This award-winning publication is also available in English, entitled The ABCs of Polish Design, translated by Agnes Monod-Gayraud.
Honourable Mentions for literature:
Marta Guśniowska, A Niech To Gęś Kopnie (Well, I’ll be Goosed!), Tashka Publishers
In this story by Marta Guśniowska, a respected playwright for young people, the goose from the title is a quite an unusual character. She is thin, ugly and suffering from depression due to a lack of friendship, love or meaning in life.
A warm, intelligently humorous story about the pursuit of happiness. The goose captivates readers of all ages thanks to her feathery charm and Robert Romanowicz’s illustrations. Marta Guśniowska’s book is one of the most commonly staged plays for children in Poland.
Piotr Rowicki, 16.10 do Bergamo (The 16.10 to Bergamo), Literatura Publishers
A moving and important tale about the issue of Euro-orphans. The mother of Lidka, the young heroine of Piotr Rowicki’s book, works in Bergamo, Italy.
Lidka liked it when her mum came back. At first it was once a month, then once every two months, and then only for the holidays. She also liked writing letters to her mum, then sitting and waiting for the postman. She’d try on her mum’s dresses and use her makeup (Mum didn’t approve). She liked to think about her mum before falling asleep, to dream about her, and wake up imagining that she was there.
The little girl also knows that Bergamo is 1455 kilometres away from her home in Cebulówka, Poland, and that it would take 14 hours and 41 minutes to get there. But how? The answer is in Piotr Rowicki’s book, which received an Honourable Mention from IBBY.
Zuzanna Orlińska, Biały Teatr Panny Nehemias (Miss Nehemiah’s White Theatre), Literatura Publishers
Superbly set in the realities of Poland under the communist regime, this book is no one-off read. Katarzyna Slany warns us that Biały Teatr Panny Nehemias is an addictive story that will force you to keep coming back.
We travel back to 1980s’ Warsaw. That bleak, grey world without tablets or computers seems so exotic and hard to imagine for modern teenagers. Queues of people coil in front of the shops, but there are no goods on the shelves. The lives of sixth-graders Katarzyna and Elżbieta are equally dull until they meet two strange elderly ladies, and discover a curious object in their mysterious apartment. Where will this compelling literary labyrinth lead the readers? The book is illustrated by Sylwia Szyrszeń.
Katarzyna Ryrych, Jasne Dni, Ciemne Dni (Bright Days, Dark Days), Literatura Publishers
Another book by Katarzyna Ryrych on IBBY’s list. With great sensitivity, empathy and tenderness she introduces younger readers to a world that is challenging even for adults. Meet Witek, the teenage head of the family. A grown-up child burdened by the weight of duties and responsibilities. He can count only on himself. His mother is grieving deeply for Magda, who died in a car crash. His father, who was driving, is in hospital, in a coma. And then there is Bąk, who needs love and hugs, and his granny with Alzheimer’s... This is a book for dark days and bright days. Illustrated by Elżbieta Chojna.
Małgorzata Strękowska-Zaremba, Dom Nie z Tej Ziemi (An Unearthly House), Nasza Księgarnia Publishers
Another book that broaches topics that are difficult to talk about. The jury felt this was an excellent example of artistically valuable literature with an important social message. The titular Dom Nie z Tej Ziemi is basically a source of violence and trauma, but will this evil house reveal its dark secret? According to Irena Bolek, this is an excursion to the edge of darkness and fears of the dark. Our guides in this sinister world are two children, Marysia and her friend Daniel. The book was masterfully illustrated by Daniel de Latour.
Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało, Nikt Nas Nie Upomni (We Shall Not Be Rebuked), Hokus-Pokus Publishers
The imagination of Wrocław poetess Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało is as broad as the universe. In her review, Weronika Kostecka noted that Nikt Nas Nie Upomni’s author breaks with all traditions and customs, creating poetic prose that blows the traditional standards of children’s literature apart just as strongly as the book’s three main characters deal with their reality.
Readers are presented with a unique, defiant, truly childlike manifesto. ‘A manifesto of children’s empowerment and dreams of autonomy’, added the head of the jury. ‘Because Adelka, Franek and Julek wish to be more than precursors of their future selves. They are who they are! Rebellious and refusing to conform to the grim reality’, said Irena Bolek. Illustrated by Ilona Błaut.
Honourable Mentions for illustrations
Katarzyna Bogucka, Spacer (A Walk), Tako Publishers
It’s time for a walk that might suddenly turn into a journey through life, filled with philosophical reflection. As Jacek Friedrich remarked, Katarzyna Bogucka sucks readers into a rapidly narrated graphic tale. As we browse through the book, we participate in other people’s weddings, funerals, fights, demonstrations, and watch them move house. The book is a continuation of the author’s typical retro style.
With its clear, simple lines, Bogucka’s Spacer is somewhat like a comic book. This is undoubtedly her best book to date.
Marianna Oklejak, Cuda Niewidy: Zagadki dla Młodszych i Starszych (Wonders: Puzzles for Young and Old), Egmont Publishers
Something for lovers of fairy tales, folklore and visual brain-teasers, all of which can be found in Marianna Oklejak’s beautifully illustrated book. Saturated colours and shapes, plus a richly ornamented style which, experts remarked, combines ethnic elements with refined cut-outs in the style of Henri Matisse. Cuda Niewidy is Marianna Oklejak’s second original book, after Cuda Wianki (Wonder Wreaths), and it’s hard to take your eyes off it.
Justyna Sokołowska, Złota Różdżka: Bajki dla Niegrzecznych Dzieci (The Golden Wand: Tales for Naughty Children) by Heinrich Hoffman, Egmont Publishers
A German literary classic revamped in a totally contemporary artistic style. Justyna Sokołowska decided to buck tradition, which impressed the jurors: ‘No allusion to the original German version; no stylisation of the 19th-century illustrations!’, exclaimed Jacek Friedrich in delight. Light-hearted illustrations highlight the pure nonsense and blend in perfectly with the poems, newly translated by Michał Rusinek, Adam Pluszka, and others.
Jerzy Gruchot and Wojciech Koss, 12 Półtonów: Książka o Muzyce (12 Semitones: A Book about Music), DrugaNoga Publishers
Musical theory and history in pictures – and what pictures they are! Zuzanna Kisielewska’s accessible, visually appealing book, illustrated by Jerzy Gruchot and Wojciech Koss, tells us about ancient and contemporary sounds, the first mammoth-ivory instruments, and the oldest musical notation from over 3000 years ago. We also find medieval sheet music, musical experiments, curiosities and riddles. Do you know how the oldest musical hit was created, what we have in common with nightingales, or why songs work as antidepressants? This book is definitely worth a look.
Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński, Lodorosty i Bluszczary: Wiersze dla Dzieci (Ice-Weed and Swamp-Ivy: Poems for Children) by Jerzy Ficowski, Wolno Publishers
Lodorosty i Bluszczary is the most comprehensive anthology of children’s poetry by the prominent poet and writer Jerzy Ficowski. The book gathers his verse written for youngsters over almost four decades, starting in the early 1950s. The selection was prepared by Jarosław Borowiec, with illustrations by Gosia Herba and graphic design by Mikołaj Pasiński. And the overall effect? The jury felt that this book’s harmonious tenderness encourages us to enjoy Jerzy Ficowski’s poetry, thanks to its pleasantly textured cover, bookmarks, and of course the layout design inside.
Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński, Wiersze dla Dzieci (Poems for Children) by Stanisław Grochowiak, Warstwy Publishers
The Herba/Pasiński duo have managed to stay faithful to the traditions of the glory days of Polish illustration, back when Stanisław Grochowiak wrote his poems. However, as Krystyna Rybicka pointed out, the authors do still use some modern techniques. There are drawn ‘collages’ resembling children’s cut-outs, and simple geometrical forms with clear, saturated colours that arouse the imagination, engaging readers in games with words and pictures that chime well with the verses from the 1970s.
Sources: IBBY Polish Section, press materials, compiled by AL, translated by MB, Jan 2018