August 23, 2010

Croation Tales of Long Ago

Ivana

One of our readers and commenters recently told us about one of her favorite children’s book authors from Croatia – Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić. Although she passed away 1938 she is still considered to be one of Croatia’s most famous and well-loved writers for children. Born into a family of politicians and poets, Ivana homeschooled all six of her children, and became famous in 1913 for her book The Brave Adventures of Laptich. Croatian Tales of Long Ago was published in 1916 with huge success, which prompted Ivana’s nickname – “The Croatian Andersen” (in reference to Hans Christian Andersen). The stories are original, but reference characters and themes from traditional Slavic mythology.

Berlic-Mazuranic_cover_m

In 2002 and 2003 an animation artist named Helena Bulaja decided to adapt some of the Croatian Tales of Long Ago into a web animation project.  In her words: “The digital revolution, the Internet, and modern communications are on one side, and the world of fairytales on the other…the concept of the interactive book is so open, and unlike film, theatre, or illustration, it can take almost any form, it can be a film, an illustration, a game…”  The website is a little dated, but the animation is stunning, such as in Yagor below:

 

 

Yagor from Helena Bulaja on Vimeo.


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.

August 20, 2010

Happy St. Stephen’s Day!

fireworks

Today is a Hungarian national holiday, celebrating St. Stephen I, Hungary’s patron saint and First King (between 1000 and 1038 AD). Through his powerful role as King he helped to establish the Kingdom of Hungary, so August 20th, while commemorating his life, also celebrates the birth of Hungary. During the Soviet occupation of Hungary St. Stephen’s day was dismissed as being “too religious”, and was replaced with a celebration of the Stalinist constitution, as well as a “celebration of new bread”, referring to the beginning of the harvest.

Modern day Budapest celebrates St. Stephen’s Day with fireworks, air shows, and outside fairs, with stands selling bread and cakes.

This season we happen to be carrying a shirt that references King Stephen’s reign – our Knights Double Decker Tee was inspired by the Knights of King Stephen’s army:

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Have you ever been in Hungary during St. Stephen’s Day? Did you celebrate it as a child? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

August 17, 2010

Land of Falling Lakes

I’ve wanted to visit Croatia ever since I saw the PBS special Land of Falling Lakes about Plitvice Lakes National Park.  I could barely believe such a majestic landscape actually existed.   Sixteen bright turquoise lakes are nestled in woodland-covered mountains, and are connected by waterfalls, caverns and bubbling streams.  Plitvice Lakes was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979 for its “outstanding natural beauty.”
PlitviceLakeSpring
PlitviceLakes01PlitviceLakeAutumn
PlitviceLakeWinter
Spring photo (top) by Elliot Jenko
Summer photo (2nd from top) by Jack Brauer
Fall photo (3rd from top) found here
Winter photo (bottom) found here

The documentary takes you through the seasons of the park, teaches you about the land’s unique ecology and introduces you to many of its animal residents.  With fascinating explanations of animals and the landscape of the region, this documentary will appeal to all ages.

Stream the previewPurchase the DVDAdd it to your Netflix queue.  Or better yet, go visit.

August 13, 2010

Kati and Kormos

On a quest for children’s stories from Hungary, Romania, and Croatia, I found myself at the San Francisco Public Library:

main-library_rear-large-e-mail-view

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:

kk cover

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.

kk grass

Luckily one day she met Kormos Puli, a shaggy little sheepdog, and his owner Old Imne:

New Image

She learns to love a life of herding and not hunting, and abandons her life of lonely luxury for a life with good company.

kk fire

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.