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For the first time, the largest Lithuanian cultural event, Vilnius Book Fair, set up a tent for young readers at the festival Capital Days 2021. On 3-5 September, the tent hosted free live meetings with book creators. The creative workshops were led by the group O!: Ieva Babilaitė, Rasa Jančiauskaitė, Aušra Kiudulaitė, book creators Lina Itagaki, Kotryna Zylė, Monika Vaicenavičienė, Inga Dagilė, Agnė Nananai and other prominent Lithuanian illustrators and book authors. Participants of the city festival were also invited to see the exhibition of knygiukai, or little books, and participate in the landscape orienteering games “Read Vilnius” and “Three VilniusCastles”. The Vilnius Book Fair Young Readers’ Tent was erected in the “Book Square”, next to the Cathedral’s bell tower.

Aware of the ongoing pandemic, the Lithuanian Culture Institute planned the meetings with book creators and young readers with particular diligence and took all necessary protection measures.

“Live meetings between readers and book creators are a very important part of the Vilnius Book Fair, and the unique programme of creative activities for children and teenagers has become an integral experience of visiting the fair, as it makes a strong impression on young readers inspiring them to discover the miracle of reading for life,” says Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute, one of the organisers of the fair.

So what events took place at the Vilnius Book Fair Young Readers’ Tent on 3-5 September?

Knygiukai the almighty

Every day, writer-illustrator duos led creative workshops titled Knygiukai come to help children” within which they taught  visitors how to make little books. But what are those little books? Knygiukai were created in the summer of 2020 by 55 Lithuanian children’s book artists to help look after the emotional well-being of children and their families during the challenging times of the pandemic. This is how free online downloadable books – short stories created by writer-illustrator duos – were born.

Author Kotryna Zylė, photo by Laura Vansevičienė

“The stories of knygiukai, like any children’s books, are primarily a joy to read. They are the most fun to read together rather than leaving the child to read them alone. When there is tension in the family, stories help to come together and unwind while reading. When the family is happy, it is another way to spend time pleasantly, discuss those short stories, and laugh together!” says one of the founders of knygiukai, writer Kotryna Zylė. Together with the illustrator Inga Dagilė, she taught the children how to pack the best days of their lives or, at least, summer into matchboxes.

Gaja Una Eklė (Eglė Baliutavičiūtė) and Eidvilė Viktorija Buožytė, Jurga Vilė and Indrė Zalieckienė, Modesta Jurgaitytė and Lina Itagaki also had daily creative knygiukai workshops with children. Jurgaitytė and Itagaki, the creators of the little book Visokia, invited the children to draw a little book about their moods or the moods of their friend or pet, which, according to the authors, can be of all kinds: it might be like a tractor and like a zucchini. Vilė and Zalieckienė, the creators of the book Lygiai lyja, who are in love with rain, invited the attendees not only to create a little book but also to splash in the drawn puddles, listen to torrential rain falling in a distant jungle and quietly tap the table with their sticks or fingertips.

The exhibition of knygiukai was open every day. The project that brought together so many book creators was conceived by the Children’s and Youth Literature Cognition Programme “Vaikų žemė” together with the Child Psychology Centre and the Lithuanian branch of the International Association of Children and Youth Literature (IBBY).

“O!”, a wild and fun group of creators

On Saturday and Sunday, the group of creators “O!”, I. Babilaitė, R. Jančiauskaitė and A. Kiudulaitė, invited young readers to the creative workshop “Vilnius manO! Aky” (Vilnius in My Eye). “The group “O!” has been quietly making creative plans and whirling in a cOnstant whirlwind Of surprise in autumnal Vilnius. We all are missing the Vilnius BOOk Fair and lOOk forward with great jOy and curiOsity to meeting yOu in the YOung Readers’ Tent. In the “O!” wOrkshOp, we will emplOy scissOrs and glue and encOurage each Other to ask “And what dO yOu see?”, shared the creators their idea.

Creative group “O!”: Ieva Babilaitė, Rasa Jančiauskaitė, Aušra Kiudulaitė. Photo from a private archive.

Encounters on Vilnius’ streets

Book creator Monika Vaicenavičienė led a creative workshop based on her and Agnė Ulytė’s book Gatvių susitikimai. O kas, jeigu Vilniaus gatvės šnekėtųsi? inviting the visitors to closely look at the map of Vilnius and record their personal encounters on it.

Takeaway cards

Every day, the Young Readers’ Tent hosted a postcard-drawing happening, a promotional event of the 22nd Vilnius Book Fair. It was led by 8 artists: Greta Alice, Lina Itagaki, Simona Jurčikonytė, Vilija Kvieskaitė, Agnė Nananai, Vanda Padimanskaitė, Ula Rugevičiūtė Rugytė and Kornelija Žalpytė. The illustrators drew postcards at the visitors’ request, which they then could save in their collections or post to friends.

And what do the artists themselves do with the postcards? Illustrator Ula Rugevičiūtė revealed that she has a large collection of postcards. “For me, they are windows into other worlds. They are fragments of different places, times and people, with which I can enrich my world.”

Comic book creator Lina Itagaki also collects postcards. “I like to bring postcards from trips to remind me that “I’ve been there”. It’s also very nice to receive postcards from friends when they go somewhere, like short travel diaries. Sometimes I send postcards, too – you can draw on them, add a piece of yourself before sending. Sometimes it’s also nice to send a postcard to yourself and find it when you return from the trip,” shared the artist, adding that she sees postcards as evokers of memories.

Book creator Lina Itagaki. Photo from a private archive.

Illustrator Vanda Padimanskaitė also supports this idea. “Postcards, like music or perfume, can turn back time,” said the artist. “Postcards are very versatile: they can be used to thank, congratulate, send a message, remind, remember, make someone laugh, comfort, share your worries or simply send a few words to someone, share a snippet of your day, or draw something.”

Graphic artist and illustrator Kornelija Žalpytė believes that a postcard can help record ideas that might suddenly come to you. “Postcards is an opportunity to record in drawing the moment, the thought, the idea that came to you at that moment – you never know what the thought will be! And when it comes, you capture it, and later can delight in how much and what you have come up with!” shared the artist joyfully.

“A postcard is a visual letter of the moment,” says illustrator Simona Jurčikonytė. “Some letters wish you a beautiful day, others a happy birthday, still others thank you for your friendship or apologise. A visual letter is powerful and full of emotions, it will undoubtedly touch the heart even after many years when we will remember that card with a picture again, see it or take it from the bottom of a drawer or box.”

Illustrator Vilija Kvieskaitė also agrees with this observation. “Postcards are little keepers of memories – it’s so nice to rediscover a postcard you might have placed in a book instead of a bookmark,” says the artist.

Comic book creator Greta Alice also claims to have noticed the supernatural powers of postcards. A postcard is the most magical thing in the world. It can hold twenty poems, hundreds of countries, dozens of friends, thousands of emotions and at least several miracles, so why not send each other that rectangular miracle?” says Greta and reminds us that we must share miracles so that they happen to us, too.  

“A postcard is, first of all, a visual memory/wish, which can be used to show attention to your loved ones. You don’t even have to write something on it, sometimes it is enough to just sign it. It is like a photo, only captured on it is not you but the feeling that the illustration wants to convey,” shared her thoughts the book illustrator Agnė Nananai.

Orienteering games for children and teenagers

Within Capital Days 2021, there were two free orientation games. The participants of the game “Read Vilnius” were able to test their knowledge of all things literary and stretch their feet through the picturesque streets of Vilnius – all they needed was a good mood and a smartphone. The beginning of the orientation route was the Young Readers’ Tent where it was possible to get a special game map, and after successfully reaching the finish to collect the prize. This literary orientation game was created by the specialists of the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania in cooperation with the Lithuanian Culture Institute.

A fragment of the map of the orienteering game “Read Vilnius”.

In the Young Readers’ Tent, children also could meet a guide who led a cognitive excursion-orientation game “Three Vilnius Castles”. While performing various tasks, its participants discovered previously unknown details of Vilnius castles and secret signs and got acquainted with the history of the castles. It was necessary to register for the excursion organised by the State Cultural Reserve of Vilnius Castles, which was possible to do live at the Vilnius Book Fair Young Readers’ Tent.

The Lithuanian Culture Institute invited visitors to meetings with book creators in the Vilnius Book Fair Young Readers’ Tent as it looks forward to warm encounters at the 22nd Vilnius Book Fair on 24-27 February 2022!

The Vilnius Book Fair Young Readers’ Tent was organised by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and funded by the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania.

Project partners: Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, Directorate of The State Cultural Reserve of Vilnius Castles, Children’s and Youth Literature Cognition Programme “Vaikų žemė, Public Institution Child Psychology Centre, International Branch of the International Association of Children and Youth Literature (IBBY). Organisers of Vilnius Book Fair: Lithuanian Culture Institute, Lithuanian Publishers Association, Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO.