On a quest for children’s stories from Hungary, Romania, and Croatia, I found myself at the San Francisco Public Library:
The Main Branch downtown is massive, with 6 stories of books, and an amazing Children’s Section. To my surprise I found piles and piles of folk tales from these regions, and thanks to a kind librarian, was able to look at some books from the Historical Archives, which are not loaned out to the public. The one which resonated the most for me in both illustration and content was Kati and Kormos, written by Anico Surany and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher:
Kati Viszla is a prize-winning hunting dog who lived in a grand kennel on a huge estate in Hungary. She was happy, but lonely, as her owner Count Toldy was away often, and she spent most of her days inside a cage, and bored.
Luckily one day she met Kormos Puli, a shaggy little sheepdog, and his owner Old Imne:
She learns to love a life of herding and not hunting, and abandons her life of lonely luxury for a life with good company.
The illustrations are gorgeous in person. The tale is simple but the writing is wonderfully descriptive, and similar to Selma the Sheep, I find it conveys wisdom within its pages. The author Anico Surray is born of Hungarian ancestry, and owns a Viszla dog similar to Kati. Leonard Everett Fisher has an MFA from Yale, and has illustrated over 100 kids books, including 11 of his own.
Published by Holiday House Press in 1966, copies of this book are not very easy to find, but Amazon has a few for sale here.
This is part of an ongoing blog series exploring children’s literature and folk tales from the regions of Hungary, Romania, and Croatia. Do you have any recommendations? If so please feel free to leave a comment below.