Story Guards: Forests Talk at the Osijek City and University (Croatia)

Osijek City and University Library was host 5th time in a row of the International
festival Story Keepers. This year’s theme was forests, with appropriate slogan Forests talk.
Osijek City and University Library organized and hosted the Festival from July 4 to July 6.

The Festival program included exhibitions of illustrious artists, presentation of their
artwork, paintings and picture books, meetings with illustrators and writers, workshops lead
by artists, performances by different Croatian artists, shows and many more. Like all the
festival programs so far, we welcomed all the children, as well as all the adults who nurture
the culture of reading. This year we most welcomed all those who are listening carefully,
because forests were talking!

Of all the marvelous artists and workshops, we would like to highlight some: On the
first day of the Festival, Leonilda Conti, museum pedagogue held an amazing workshop
during which all the participants created trees using recycled and some unexpected materials,
such as sponge, cork, rocks, feathers, Christmas garlands, pinecones, ropes, pieces of fabric
etc. That way every tree told a unique story, and all the trees together sang a song of a forest.

Tihana Ostreš and Zdenko Bašić, multimedia artists led a fairytale workshop creating
birdhouses, only these were for lost sprites. Participants were using cardboard cones, hot glue
guns, wooden slats, bark wood, and moss. Some of them painted their houses, while some
made tiny roofs. Some participants created antennas for the houses, and then others made
houses stand on legs. Every sprite house was unique, and after the workshop, we collected
them and put them on display for everyone to see.

Our guest from Serbia, Daniela Skoković, library adviser, held a workshop called
Book on a red carpet during which she presented and promoted new book titles available both
in Serbia and in Croatia. It was an interesting and fun way for the participants to learn about
new stories and novels, and smart way to encourage children to read during summer break.

Milan Zlatković, music teacher, and his wife Ksenia Vladimirovna Zlatković,
illustrator, led a multi-art workshop during which all the participants sang, danced and
painted. Topic of the workshop were fantastic animals and the participants discussed them,
sang songs about them and drawn their own fantastic animals. They used folk stories, Serbian
and Croatian as well as Russian, and folk songs about forests and animals as their inspiration.

Illustrator Željka Mezić led an interesting workshop in which, in the first half, she
explained what a picture book is and how is it made, how the author of the text communicates
with an illustrator and vice versa, and how they communicate with the editor, designer and
publisher. After gaining enough knowledge, participants created their own picture book
illustrations when they received text for it.

We finished exciting day with a magnificent show by RitmOS. RitmOS are drumming
group from Osijek who communicate and interact with their audience (they give percussions,
triangles, claves, and shakers) and tell a story about a tree that needed help, in which everyone
has a role and a part to play.

Second day of the festival began with workshop by famous Croatian illustrator Dražen
Jerabek. He illustrated book called Mountain spirit written by Croatian author Želimir
Hercigonja. First, he told the participants about the novel and his illustrations, and then retold
some of most important and memorable parts of it. Lastly, he asked the participants to re-draw
few of the retold scenes in way and with medium they chose (most preferred being color
pencils).

Vane Kosturanov, famous Macedonian illustrator, led an illustration workshop during
which participants (children and a few grown-ups) drew forests, woods and forest animals
with different coloring mediums.

Davor Vrandečić, graphic designer and student radio host, and his participants created
radio drama based on the novel Stribor’s forest written by famous Croatian author Ivana Brlić
Mažuranić. Davor and the participants took roles of Mother, Son, Snake, and Domaći
(household spirits) and Stribor in a radio screenplay and recorded it live into intriguing and
interesting radio drama.

All the way from Slovenia to Osijek’s Picture book festival came Darka Erdelji,
puppeteer and set designer who led a unique workshop using driftwood, branches, moss, hot
glue, hammers, and drills to make forest puppets in shapes of all the different known and
imagined animals and spirits!

After her, famous illustrator and puppeteer from Zagreb Marijana Jelić demonstrated
participants on her workshop how 3D illustrations are made. They were theorizing folding
paper and all the elements that can make flat paper into a three-dimensional object and how
illustrating that way works.

Nada Jovanović, French language teacher, and the participants read beautiful story
Merci, le vent! (Thank you, wind!) written by Edouard Manceau in both French and Croatian.
We finished day full of new encounters and experiences with storytellers Zdenko
Bašić, Darka Erdelji, Dražen Jerabek, Tihana Ostreš and Dubravka Pađen Farkaš, fireflies in
jars, smell of straw, sounds of guitar and singing long into the night.

Last day of the Festival opened Marijana Jelić and Darka Erdelji with their interesting
workshop using shadows! They taught the participants how to create carton and paper animals
and how to make them move. Then they turned off the lights and with using as simple as a
flashlight and an umbrella, created light and shadow forest magic.

Another interesting workshop that taught participants how important it is to preserve
trees, and nature in general led Andreja Grošelj and Katarina Jukić, Osijek City and
University Library staff. It was very ecological workshop on how to preserve forests by paper
recycling, where they taught their participants why is paper recycling important, how is that
possible and taught participants how to recycle paper.

Macedonian illustrator Vane Kosturanov and the participants then for the end drew
mural with forests motif. He taught the participants what murals are and how they are created,
and then they drew them using acrylic paint on Library fence.

We started closing this beautiful program by opening the exhibition Forests talk,
which consisted of artwork – illustrations, puppets and picture books by all the participants.
After the exhibition opening, we once again told stories and hung on with the sound of drums.

We are amazed, as all the years before, by the patron and citizen turnout and public’s
sense for this Festival, as well as stakeholder’s generosity. There were more than 500
participants during the three days of the Festival. International festival Story Keepers: Forests
Talk was a vast challenge, financially, organizationally, and logistically, but it turned out as a
great success and best way possible to promote the library, written word, reading culture (and
reading from the youngest age), illustration and picture books. We are tired, but cannot wait
to organize next one!

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