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Andrus Kivirähk (1970) is an author of adult and children’s prose and poetry, a playwright, topical satirist, and screenplay writer. He graduated from the University of Tartu as a journalist, and is the most powerful and prolific figure on Estonia’s literary scene today. Kivirähk is a remarkable author who can switch effortlessly from one style to another, producing fascinating short stories, newspaper columns, dramatic texts, children’s works, and television scripts alike. He has written 12 books for children, all of which are kept in print and widely read. Kivirähk’s children’s stories are known for their rich fantasy and unique sense of humour. The writing is simple, the plots fast-paced, and the gallery of characters colourful and full of surprises.
Andrus Kivirähk (1970), one of the younger generation’s most well known authors, is at his peak as a writer of books for both children and adults. In truth, there are no grounds for categorizing his works as those for large or small readers, as they comprise a certain unified whole both thematically and stylistically. He has also personally stated that for him, there is no difference in writing for children or grown-ups. All of Kivirähk’s works are extremely playful, crafty, and imaginative; gladly ironizing seriousness as well as excessive pathos. Kivirähk’s high-flying fantasy knows no limits in terms of character creation. Among his diverse and colourful gallery are, for example, romantic dog poop; an intestinal worm that makes friends with a little girl; a honeybee judo teacher named Susumu, who accidentally journeys within a book to Gadgetville; a building maintenance man that turns into the prince of an underwater world, etc.
Kivirähk’s works have seeped into many mediums and products (films, plays, board games, and a soon-to-be-finished theme park). The fact that he is a three-time laureate of the Nukitsa Award, which is picked by children themselves, speaks for itself.
Kivirähk’s first children’s book, Giraffe (1995), pokes fun at adults’ dull attitude towards life, and also provides an indicator for the writer’s future works. On one end is a pair of dim and practical-minded parents, and on the other is their lonely daughter Kai, whose only friend is a tapeworm named Tõnis that lives in her stomach.
In the book Sirli, Siim and the Secrets (1999), the world of dreams is given at least as important place as that of the real world. In the work, not only children, but also grown-ups are in a search for comfort in their fantasies. Dreaming and fantasizing helps each one of them to deal with the surrounding world. The father of the family is a famous athlete in his imagination, while the mother is a princess in a great castle, the boy is a wizard, and the daughter a cloud ballerina. Yet all of them are surpassed by the maintenance man, who in his own dreams has moved to an underwater world to live as a prince, and hides an entire sea in the apartment building’s broom closet.
Kivirähk’s best-known character is undoubtedly the dog-girl Lotte from the books Lotte’s Journey South (2002) and “Lotte from Gadgetville” (2006), the success of which has been ramped up by full-length animated films of the same title. There is probably not one person in Estonia that hasn’t heard of Lotte – the character has already long lived an independent life in various fields of culture, as well as in the form of several different products such as ice cream, bed sheets, and a clothing brand.
The Lotte stories include a unique social utopia characterised by the absence of violence. The events’ setting is in Gadgetville, the community inhabiting which is composed of different species of animals that live amiably side-by-side and surprise one another with new inventions time and time again. It’s no wonder then that little Lotte and her friends are brimming with wild ideas, the joy of discovery, and a hankering for invention. If there is even a negative character in these books, then it is merely a little dim-witted in the worst case. Kivirähk’s children’s book, Poo and Spring (2009), is a humorous collection of short stories, the intriguing title of which incites excitement in children and occasionally ruffles feathers among the older generation. Truly, there is no question of whether Kivirähk is on children’s side: he accepts a child as he or she is, dismisses taboos and authority figures, and encourages young people to be creative and free.
|Oskar and the Things
When six-year-old Oskar’s mother flies away to take classes in America and his father has to go to work every day, the boy is sent to live with his grandmother in the countryside for the summer. Oskar doesn’t feel all that close to his grandma, who has lived so far away, and this makes him lonely and unhappy. His sense of abandonment worsens when he realizes he left his mobile phone at home.
Reading example: English, German
|Carnival and Potato Salad
Characters in the stories written for pre-schoolers and early-school- aged children include a ravenous computer and a locomotive, who dreams of living the life of an instrument. As usual for Kivirähk’s stories, familiar everyday objects often get fresh starts in life – an eraser can become a football, or a pillow can be a teacher.
Big Toell was a simple farmer who ploughed the fields when he needed to and harvested the grain when he needed to, just like all the men on Saaremaa. He was not a miracle-worker, a wizard, or a magician – just a big, quiet man. It was not worth bothering him with trivial matters, but when great trouble was nigh, Toell would always come to lend a hand.
|A Frog Kiss
A lovely story which shows that fairy tales do not always work the way they’re supposed to. Everybody knows that a frog should turn into a princess when kissed but sometimes the unexpected happens. It all begins with the Santa Claus flying back home from one of his shopping trips and losing a couple of books.
|Poo and Spring
"Poo and Spring" is one of the most popular children's book in Estonia from the last five years. The book consists of two- or three-page stories, in which characters from the everyday world suddenly find new ways to interact. Do you know what happens when a dog turns yellow in autumn and sheds its fur? Naturally, he will have new green fur in the spring.
|Sirli, Siim and the Secrets
An enchanting tale about an ordinary family, whose everyday life is brightened up and enhanced by dreams. The daughter, Sirli, goes to visit a cloud ballerina, while the son, Siim, is a good wizard in a little world located under his writing desk. The mother occasionally runs away to a majestic castle, where she is treated as royalty.
|Lotte from Gadgetville
The little puppy girl Lotte and her best friend, a kitten named Bruno, live in Gadgetville, where the inhabitants spend most of their time inventing new contraptions. One day, the children find a soaked book in the sea. Out of the book crawls the bee Susumu who, as it turns out, comes from Japan. Lotte decides to help Susumu to get back home.
Little Kai’s withdrawn nature and tendency to live in her fantasies create problems for her mentally limited and completely materialistic parents. The root of the problem is thought to be stomach worms. Yet instead of taking medicine for her worms, Kai makes friends with one of them, and together, they weave extravagant fantasies.
2012, 2016 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award candidate
2016 Tartu Prize for Children’s Literature (Childhood Prize) (Oskar and the Things)
2016 Eduard Vilde Literary Award (Oskar and the Things)
2016 Nukits Competition, 2nd place (Carnival and Potato Salad)
2015 Nominee of the Annual Children’s Literature Award of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (Oskar and the Things)
2015 Good Children’s Book (Oskar and the Things)
2015 The White Ravens (Big Toell)
2013 Jānis Baltvilks Award (Jāņa Baltvilka balva), Latvia (Poo and Spring)
2013 Good Children’s Book (A Frog Kiss)
2011 Jānis Baltvilks Award (Jāņa Baltvilka balva), Latvia (Lotte from Gadgetville)
2010 Nukits Competition, 1st place (Poo and Spring)
2010 Children’s and Young Adult Jury (Bērnu un jauniešu žūrija), Latvia, 2nd place (Grades 5–7) (Sirli, Siim and the Secrets)
2008 IBBY Honour List (Lotte from Gadgetville)
2008 Nukits Competition, 1st place (Lotte from Gadgetville)
2007 Republic of Estonia State Culture Award for 2006 Creative Achievements (Lotte from Gadgetville; and plays)
2006 Nukits Competition, 1st place (Limpa and the Pirates)
2005 Estonian Children’s Literature Centre Raisin of the Year Award (Bed-time stories for Estonian fathers, together with the collection’s other authors)
2004 The Order of the White Star, V class
2004 Nukits Competition, 2nd place (Lotte’s Journey South)
2000 Annual Cultural Endowment of Estonia Award (animated feature film Lotte, together with H. Ernits, J. Põldma, R. Lukk-Toompere ja O. Ehala)
Carnival and Potato Salad
Latvian: Karnevāls un kartupeļu salāti, Liels un mazs 2016
Russian in Estonia: Карнавал и картофельный салат, Varrak 2016
A Frog Kiss
German: Frösche küssen, Willegoos 2015
Russian in Estonia: Поцелуй лягушку! Varrak 2014
Russian in Estonia: Жираф, Издательство КПД 2008
Limpa and the Pirates
Russian in Estonia: Лимпа и пираты, Varrak 2009
Lotte from Gadgetville
Latvian: Lote no Izgudrotāju ciema, Zvaigzne ABC 2010
Russian in Estonia: Лотте из Деревни Изобретателей, Eesti Päevaleht 2009
Finnish: Keksijäkylän Lotta, Otava 2008
Lotte’s Journey South
Russian in Estonia: Путешествие Лотты в тёплые края, Eesti Joonisfilm 2017
Latvian: Lotes ceļojums uz dienvidiem, Zvaigzne ABC 2013
Poo and Spring
Finnish: Koiranne alkaa kohta kukkia, Otava 2016
German: Der Schiet und das Frühjahr, Willegoos 2015
Low German: De Schiet un dat Fröhjohr, Plaggenhauer 2015
Latvian: Kaka un pavasaris, Liels un mazs 2012
Russian in Estonia: Весна и какашка, Varrak 2010
Sirli, Siim and the Secrets
Slovenian: Sara, Simon in skrivnosti, KUD Sodobnost International 2015
Lithuanian: Sirlė, Simas ir slėpiniai, Kronta 2010
Latvian: Sirli, Sīms un noslēpumi, Liels un mazs 2009
Hungarian: Sári, Samu és a titkok, Cerkabella 2008
Russian in Estonia: Сирли, Сийм и секреты, Издательство КПД 2008
Karneval ja kartulisalat (Carnival and Potato Salad), Varrak 2015, illustrated by Heiki Ernits, 128 pp
Oskar ja asjad (Oskar and the Things), Film Distribution 2015, illustrated by Anne Pikkov, 296 pp
Suur Tõll (Big Toell), Varrak 2014, illustrated by Jüri Arrak, 51 pp
Konna musi (A Frog Kiss), Varrak 2013, illustrated by Anne Pikkov, 37 pp
Kaka ja kevad (Poo and Spring), Varrak 2009, illustrated by Heiki Ernits, 95 pp
Leiutajateküla Lotte (Lotte from Gadgetville), Eesti Joonisfilm 2006, illustrated by Heiki Ernits, 258 pp
Limpa ja mereröövlid (Limpa and the Pirates), Varrak 2004, 2009, 2013, illustrated by Anni Mäger, 136 pp
Lotte reis Lõunamaale (Lotte’s Journey South), Varrak 2002; Eesti Joonisfilm 2012, illustrated by Heiki Ernits, 151 pp
Sibulad ja šokolaad (Onions and Chocolate), Varrak 2002, illustrated by Ivo Uukkivi, 136 pp (collection of children’s plays: Rich Ill Will Has No Bounds; Pill Bug and Pill Bug; Mice in the Attic; Brave Kefir)
Sirli, Siim ja saladused (Sirli, Siim and the Secrets), Varrak 1st ed. 1999, 9th ed. 2015, illustrated by Ilmar Trull, 192 pp
Kaelkirjak (Giraffe), Tiritamm 1995, illustrated by Anu Kalm; Tänapäev 2000, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, illustrated by Heiki Ernits, 64 pp