Children’s publishing in Lithuania

“We live in a time when the world is crowded with books. It is part of the reader’s journey to search through them by reading and then reading again. It is part of the reader’s adventure to find in that wild jungle of print some story that will leap up like a magician … some story that is so exciting and mysterious that the reader is changed by it.” This is what the Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Margaret Mahy wrote about the mysteries of books. Lithuania is also crowded with books. A few decades ago, we were using such terms as “the shortage of books”, and now our readers are often baffled by the thousands of newly published books by well-known and unheard-of authors that glitter in various design styles and colours on the shelves of the bookshops.

Some figures

More than 4,000 new books are published each year in Lithuania. Half of them are fiction and children’s books, constituting 38% and 12% respectively. This means that every eighth book in the Lithuanian book market is intended for children or teenagers.

In the last decade, children’s book publishing in Lithuania grew especially rapidly. Publishers managed to grasp the rules of the book market and filled most of the previously empty niches: there were more toy books, picture books and fantasy books published, as well as fiction books for older teenagers. We are currently very pleased with the production of children’s books, which is so wonderfully diverse in its content, genres, extent, form, target readers, illustrations and design.

In 2006, an absolute record for children’s book publishing was set: more than 700 titles were published that year. The recent economic downturn is a factor in the reduced extent of publishing: in 2009, only 466 titles were published. However, 400 to 500 new children’s books are considered the normal rate for this country. Compared to the previous period, it might even be called high. Let us make an interesting comparison: in 20 years of independence (1990–2009) in Lithuania, more than 7,000 books for children and teenagers were published, which is almost twice as many as during the entire 50-year period of the Soviet occupation.

The print runs of children’s books in Lithuania fluctuate. Depending on the author, genre, extent and purpose, the print run can vary from a few hundred to tens of thousands of copies. Statistical analyses show that the tendency of declining print runs has not changed in Lithuania over the last 20 years. The average print run for a children’s book has been decreasing as well (in 1993 it was 18,900 copies, in 2009 it was 2,700 copies). However, it has always almost been double the average of the general book print run.

Publishers

The Lithuanian publishing market includes more than 500 publishers. Between 60 and 70 of them publish one or more children’s books a year. However, a small number of publishers dominate in the children’s market, namely Alma littera, Gimtasis žodis, Nieko rimto, Egmont Lietuva, Presvika, Mūsų knyga, Trys nykštukai, Obuolys, Dominicus Lituanus, Kronta, Versus aureus, Tyto alba, Vaga, Baltos lankos, Šviesa, Žara, Rosma and Garnelis.

Illustrators

The majority of books for children and teenagers (40%) are publications for the youngest readers. Children’s books are written and illustrated by the top Lithuanian artists: Kęstutis Kasparavičius, Lina Dūdaitė, Irena Daukšaitė-Guobienė, Jūratė Račinskaitė, Rimvydas Kepežinskas, Irena Žviliuvienė, Sigutė Ach, Paulius Juodišius, Lina Eitmantytė-Valužienė, Rasa Joni, Giedrius Jonaitis, Eglė Kuckaitė, Vaidas Žvirblis, Rimantas Rolia, Laisvydė Šalčiūtė, and others.

Translations

One third of the children’s books are written by Lithuanian authors. During the Soviet years, starting in the 1970s, publications of Lithuanian books dominated for a long period of time. After the country regained its independence, translations of foreign authors began appearing, and by the end of the 20th century (1996) the proportion of books by Lithuanian authors and translations of foreign writers was reversed. In the last ten years, twice as many translations have been published compared to books by Lithuanian writers.

Books by American and British authors lead in the translations: more than half of all the translations of books for children and teenagers are from the English language. Quite a lot of books are translated from German (15–19%), French (9–6%), Polish (7–8%), Italian and Spanish. Children’s books from northern countries are very popular in Lithuania, and so every year new books appear written by authors from these countries.

Authors

New works by Lithuanian authors make up approximately 20% of all children’s books. Short fairy tales, stories-tales and fantasy books are the most popular with Lithuanian readers today. However, problem-orientated fiction and poetry are published as well. The most important works of children’s literature in the last decade were books by Gintarė Adomaitytė, Rimantas Černiauskas, Juozas Erlickas, Sigitas Geda, Paulius Juodišius, Kęstutis Kasparavičius, Nijolė Kepenienė, Vytautas V. Landsbergis, Gendrutis Morkūnas, Ramutė Skučaitė, Violeta Palčinskaitė, Selemonas Paltanavičius, Vytautas Petkevičius, Sigitas Poškus, Vytautas Račickas, Kazys Saja, Mykolas Sluckis, Renata Šerelytė, Martynas Vainilaitis and Vytautė Žilinskaitė.

Roma Kišūnaitė

Centre for Children’s Literature

Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania

Two publications reflecting Lithuanian children’s literature today will be available during the Fair:

Illustrarium: Twenty Books from Lithuania for Children and Teenagers

Illustrarium: The Best Lithuanian Books for Children 2000–2010

For more information please click here:

Illustrators

Writers

Publishers