Rūta Marcinkevičiūtė, 2010-12-08

K.Kasparavičius. Photo by R.Marcinkevičiūtė

K.Kasparavičius with readers. Photo by R.Marcinkevičiūtė

In brief: The first book of Kęstutis Kasparavičius was issued in Chinese. Its illustrations were first evaluated by Germans. After the school graduation exams, his Lithuanian language teacher advised him not to write anything ever; meanwhile, the Lithuanian Language Committee awarded him for correct Lithuanian in the book written by the artist. He learned choir conducting and design; still, he became an illustrator of books for children. He spent his childhood years in an old manor in Trakai district, and now he and his family live in a forest near Vilnius.

K.Kasparavičius is one of the most popular authors of books for children. Lithuanian children have elected the books written and illustrated by him as the best children's books of the year several times. Still, his books are also loved by grown-ups who have awarded the author with various prizes, and not only in Lithuania.

A book of K.Kasparavičius “The White Elephant” participates in the election of the best Lithuanian book for children announced recently. This summer the book was awarded with the International Janis Baltvilks Prize (for children's literature and book art). Another two books of the author “The Small Winter” and “Meškelionė” will appear in bookstores soon. This is a wonderful occasion to speak with the artist about the traditional book for children in the century of new technologies.

K.Kasparavičius states in the interview to believe that books for children will always be interesting. “The majority of my readers are aged from 5 to 11. They need these books a lot and read them with pleasure. Later some children sit down with “Harry Potter” in hands, others choose the computer. Certain pleasures for each age, and one cannot fight against this,” the illustrator and writer is sure.

The artist is asked about the square world in the book “The White Elephant” as well as about the formation of his original creative style, which is now known in Lithuania, USA, China, Japan, Germany or Spain. He explains that he wanted to create several illustrations using completely straight lines. Earlier he worked in another way: he used to line-draw in black and put some light colour later. After he started working with Germans, he had to change his style some 20 years ago. K.Kasparavičius was asked to use watercolours only, so that the illustrations would be more colourful.

“The first book with drawings in the new style is the German tale “Musicians of Bremen”. It is a small book of 32 pages with very small amount of text and many pictures. In my opinion, this book contains the worst illustrations. However, this book has sold the best among all my books. It is republished again and again for 20 years already and it is sold successfully in Germany.”

The illustrator indicates that, in his opinion, the best illustrations were created by him for the novella of F. Dostoyevsky “Honest Thief” at the order of Taiwan Grimm Press publishing house. The artist was awarded with the 2nd prize of the Catalonian Biennale of Illustrations for Children in 1994.

In 2002 Grimm Press publishing house decided to prepare a book as a charity project for supporting children who suffered from the earthquake. It invited artists from all over the world and asked them not only to create drawings but also to write a short story.The story of K.Kasparavičius made the publishers laugh and they decided to issue a separate book of the Lithuanian illustrator's stories. Thus, he made his debut as a writer in the Chinese language with the book “Silly Stories”. Meanwhile, Lithuanian publishing houses refused to publish the same book.

“The Chinese “Silly Stories” were very popular, the book sold well, and Grimm Press offered to publish a new book. This was how “Short Stories” and later “The Day of Strawberries” appeared. I did not offer to publish anything else in Lithuania. Still, when I worked at the book “The Day of Strawberries”, I was visited by publishers from Nieko Rimto publishing house. Our attitudes appeared to be the same, and I enjoyed the young energetic team,” the artist remembers.

This month even two new books of K.Kasparavičius were published: one was issued by Nieko Rimto, and another – by Baltos Lankos publishing house. According to the artist, he continues his successful cooperation with Nieko Rimto, and Baltos Lankos published old illustrations, which were created by K.Kasparavičius for the German publishing house ten years ago.

"Meškelionė" is an old and new book at the same time. Meanwhile, the completely new book “The Small Winter” was published by Nieko Rimto traditionally. The latter book appeared thanks to "The White Elephant". “The Small Winter” includes ten tales, all of which are white: the illustrations are light-coloured and the stories are warm and kind according to the artist.

The artist says, “I write what is in my head simply. I have never wrote specifically for children I believe that one is born a children's writer. Or not. Let's say I would start writing for grown-ups. I am not going to do it but I am sure that those books would not differ from books written until now. Not at all.”

K.Kasparavičius is also asked about tendencies and fashions of books for children in the 21st century.

“The literature for children is very diverse nowadays. You may find new books created in the entirely classical manner and very modern books. Today books for children are written on such themes which were previously not typical of children's literature: death, philosophy, other issues. Illustrations also vary: realistic as well as abstract drawings are created; in the latter case the authors try to make an impact on the reader by the colour only,” observes K.Kasparavičius.

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