This year marks the 60 year anniversary of the famous children’s books publisher Albatros, which had a monopoly on the market before the end of communism in 1989 and remains to this day the publisher of the most popular titles in children’s literature. As part of the anniversary, an exhibition in the Prague National Library gives children a chance to experience the adventurous world of their favorite cartoon characters firsthand.
This year Albatros, the most famous Czech publishing house for children’s literature, is celebrating its 60- year anniversary. Albatros had a monopoly on publishing children’s books during the communist era and brought the Czech nation the majority of its early beloved cartoon characters- including what is probably the most recognized Czech cartoon creature of all times, Zdeněk Miller’s krtek, a mole who cannot speak but gets into a lot of interesting adventures regardless. Petr Onufer, editor in chief of the publishing house’s Albatros Plus division, explains the special meaning Albatros has for Czechs.
“During the worst times of communist oppression, it was one of the very few refuge places for banned authors because the censors didn’t really pay too much attention to children’s literature. So, in a way, even during the Normalization period in the seventies, authors could publish books in Albatros that they couldn’t have published anywhere else.”
On occasion of their anniversary year, Albatros joined forces with the Prague National Library to organize the aptly titled exhibition “Ať jsem kdo jsem, vyrostl jsem s Albatrosem” in English “No matter who I am, I grew up with Albatros.”
Is it true that most Czechs have learned to read from books published by Albatros? Mr. Onufer again.
“Absolutely, it was definitely true for the older generations, because we were the only children’s book publisher before 1989. Nowadays the situation is a bit different, but the Albatros portfolio is so rich and it includes so many value authors that I would believe that most children today did learn to read with Albatros.”
The exhibition opened in late November at Prague National Library’s Gallery Klementinum, which typically focuses its exhibits around adult audiences, but decided to grant an exception to Albatros in the year of their anniversary. Barbora Štýblová is the spokeswoman of the National Library,
“This collaboration was born when the National Library decided to lend its Gallery Klementinum spaces to the publishing house Albatros, which is celebrating its 60 year anniversary. It is the most famous children’s book publishing house in the Czech Republic, and it is our goal to get children to read. If they like a book, then they will keep reading and it becomes probable that one day, they will become a customer of the Czech Republic’s National Library.”
In the exhibition, children and adults alike can re-encounter their favorite characters from fairy tales and cartoons penned by children’s literature greats such as Zdeněk Miller, Josef Lada and Jiří Trnka. Paper models of fairy tale castles, reissued illustrations and hardcover copies of Czech book classics like the fairy tale “Pohádka o Mašínkách,” featuring the popular tomcat Kocour Mikeš, are on display. The exhibition also features readings and workshops for children. It will run in the Gallery Klementinum of the Prague National Library until February 7, 2010.
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