On Finding (& Falling in Love with) ‘Oscar Seeks A Friend’

The gorgeous little picture book Oscar Seeks a Friendwritten and illustrated by Pawel Pawlak and translated by the award-winning Antonia Lloyd-Jones, is forthcoming next month from Lantana:

Today, we have four quick questions about the book from Lantana’s publisher, Alice Curry. Tomorrow, a long Q&A with Lloyd-Jones and Pawlak about this book and the landscape of Polish children’s literature.

Where did you find this little gem, and what initially attracted you to the book?

Alice Curry: I was browsing the international publisher stands at the Bologna Book Fair a couple of years ago and the unusual and arresting black cover of the Polish edition caught my eye. As soon as I saw the sad little face of the skeleton staring back at me, I was instantly hooked.

And then what made you decide, Yes, this is a Lantana book!

AC: I immediately fell for the book’s beautiful illustrations, created by Paweł as a mixed media collage, and his incredibly simple yet effective way of putting two very different worlds together visually to create striking imagery: dark and light, living and dead. But when I began to understand the story on a deeper level thanks to Antonia’s insightful translation, I realised that the book was a Lantana book through and through, exploring friendships across borders and celebrating difference: essentially showing us how our diversity can bring us closer together.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a skeleton in a field of flowers before! But the biggest surprise for me was the two beautiful parallel worlds, existing side by side, yet allowing each other to move between them. Do you have a favorite moment in the book, that sort of catches you unawares each time you see it?

AC: For me, it has to be the scenes in the underworld or afterlife. This joyous space where skeletons skate around on frozen rivers, ride penny-farthings, play harps and read books in libraries extending as far as the eye can see has much more in common with the Mexican el Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) than Western Halloween traditions in that there is a lot of beauty and comfort in the images. They make me smile every time.

I see this book was supported by the POLAND Translation Program. How important are these sorts of translation-support programs for children’s literature? What makes one of them work?

AC: It’s incredibly important. It mitigates many of the risks associated with publishing books whose authors are unknown in the UK and unable to offer the kind of in-person support often required of them in their home countries, and it also validates the esteem with which those authors are held at home and abroad. We’re grateful to the Poland Translation Program for offering us the means to bring this wonderful title to a new generation of readers in the English speaking world who I hope will love it as much as we do!

Alice Curry is the 2017 winner of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for women in publishing, a former academic lecturer and the Founder of Lantana Publishing.

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