When I first met Eugene Trivizas, the well-known author of children’s books, I was a 10-year-old girl with one dream, one day to become a journalist as his creation and her favorite hero, Piko Apiko. He was a gentle man who advised all the children never to tickle a gorilla.
Now, with his nomination for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Children’s Literature, I had the chance to talk with him again and realized that the man who made me dream as a child is still the same.
You have been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature. Talk to us about it.
Yes. I was nominated by the Hellenic Authors’ Society and the Circle of Greek Children’s Book – IBBY Greece. The Astrid Lindgen Memorial Award (ALMA) is an annual prize awarded by the Swedish government. The decision will be announced in 2013.
How do you see the evolution of Greek children’s literature?
Auspicious. Not only more and more acclaimed authors create works for children but also many worthy younger writers (Angeliki Darlasi, Alexandra K., Augoustos Korto etc.) breathe a new life to this hitherto neglected genre of literature.
Harry Potter, Twilight saga, Hunger Games. Did the children discover again the pleasure of reading or it is just a phase that it is going to end?
Every so often a book rekindles the flame of the joy of reading. The flame may be threatened by an assortment of book substitutes, but it is never altogether extinguished.
What makes a book attractive for such a difficult audience?
To make a book attractive to the child-reader the author should capture his interest from the first page and hold it steadfast until the last, creating an enticing atmosphere and making the reader curious to learn the answer to series of enigmas and questions. Before the answer to the first comes, the second should have arisen.
Does the transfer of children books to the cinema bring children closer to literature?
Yes, if it triggers their desire to become better acquainted with their heroes of the story and read other stories by the same author.
In such a difficult period what is the role of imagination?
The ability to imagine the nonexistent, the process of creating in our minds images or concepts beyond empirical reality, is directly related to scientific thought, technological progress and economic prosperity. Especially in periods of economic crisis when everyone longs for growth and development, imagination is more than ever valuable.
As the economist Kenneth Boulding argues, the most important factor of production is not land labor or capital. It is imagination. And this is because capital, land and labor have strict limits. On the contrary, imagination is boundless and therefore its advantages incalculable. Imagination is not only limitless, it is also inexpensive. As Thomas Edison put it very simply: ‘To invent, you need nothing more than a good imagination and a pile of junk”.
How can we ‘protect’ children from the crisis without making them living in a lie?
Bringing them up in such a way that the pleasures of consumption won’t replace the joy of creativity. Children do not need expensive gifts. They can easily with their imagination transform even the shabbiest of objects to something wonderful and magical. They can turn a chair into a pirate galleon, a ruler into a sword and a blue ribbon into an ocean.
The economic crisis may offer an opportunity to reassess the importance of imagination and will avert the onslaught of consumerism at the children age. To rephrase advise by A. Van Buuren: ‘If we want to raise our children properly, the best we can do is to reduce in half the amounts we spend on presents and double the time of personal contact with them”.
What advice can Pico Apico, your Fruitopia Character give to our readers?
Tango with a mango.
In Greek society we’ve started seeing cases of racism. Why do we always blame the ‘Black Cats” when something goes wrong?
Because ‘Black Cats offer an easy target and allow us and those governing us, to evade responsibility for the ills afflicting our society.
What would you tell a child who tells you that he wants to be a writer?
I would ask him if he feels an inner need to write, if writing offers him solace, comfort and creative joy. If those are the reason of his choice and not the pursuit of publicity and reward, I will encourage him. The question is very simple. Would you write, if nobody ever read what you write?
Talk to us about your next book.
During a visit in Stockholm for the International Children’s Book Week I had the opportunity to meet the Ethiopian author, librarian and activist Yohannes Gebregeorgis internationally known as a CNN hero because of his inspired campaign to bring books to the children of his impoverished country, with the so called “donkey mobile libraries”.
Each of the guests presented a small seminar at the International Library. The theme of Yohannes Gebreorgis seminar was a book entitled Curious George that he had to consider as a member of a prize-giving panel in USA. His argument was that the theme of the book, i.e. uprooting an animal from his natural environment and making his behavior appear ridiculous in the ‘civilized word’ demeans African people and is an affront to their dignity.
As a librarian at the San Francisco library, Gebreorgis was familiar with my book The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, and asked if I could write a book reversing Curious George by making the little monkey the “hero” and the man with the yellow hat, who captures him the ‘villain.’ I wasn’t familiar with Curious George. However when I read the book, I realized that the Ethiopian activist was right about the racist, Colonialist and Eurocentric connotations of the book and I wrote a book entitled Glorious George as a result.
The book will be published shortly in a Greek edition by Ikaros Publishing and an English – Amharic edition by Sololia publications. We both hope that in time Glorious George will replace Curious George in the affection of young readers.