Story: Marta Chernova and Masha Cheriakova (text based on a Belarusian folk tale)
Illustrations: Marta Chernova
Layout: Vadzim Kaspiarovich
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Popurri, Minsk (first edition, June 1, 2017)
Language: Belarusian and English (side-by-side)
Dimensions: 211 x 248 x 10 mm (8.3 x 9.8 x 0.4 inches)
Printed in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Uncoated offset paper, 250g/m2, 2500 books printed.
Meet Marylka and her horsey, the two main characters of the picture book entitled “Brave Girl”. In this tale, a little girl goes on a big adventure to prove her bravery, ending up showing everyone how courageous she really is.
As part of the Heta Belarus Dzietka project, whose mission is to promote the Belarusian identity, we set out to bring to the Belarusian children an old folk tale, springing right from their roots. We really wanted our children to hear this story read to them before bedtime, just like to many children before them many years ago. In order for people to remember their roots, the tradition must live. We went through many many old Belarusian folk tales, picked out this one (originally entitled “Not strength, but courage!”) and updated the language ever so slightly, to fit the modern times. We then translated the story from Belarusian into English, and published the book in TWO languages, side by side.
It is also no accident that our choice fell on this particular story: it is a traditional tale with a strong positive message, expressing that even a little girl can be brave and do anything she puts her mind to!
There once lived a little village girl called Marylka. Every day, her so called “friends” would bully her because of her small size. But she wasn’t having it: she knew she was worth something! She was strong and she was brave!One day, her friends dared her to go to the cemetery, all by herself, to prove her bravery. Marylka accepted the challenge.To make sure her friends knew she really was in the cemetery (and to be less scared), Marylka began to sing loudly. By coincidence, a group of robbers with stolen loot was passing by the cemetery that very same night. They heard Marylka’s shrill voice and thought it was a ghost! Scared, they ran away, leaving their loot behind.Marylka found the loot and returned it to the owner, receiving the most beautiful pony as a reward.But the robbers found out that it was her. They attempted to lure Marylka into their lair.She went ahead to check it out,But since we was smart – she didn’t go in!Instead, she ran back to her village and told everyone where the robbers were hiding, thereby saving the entire village!
Creating the visuals
Search for the image of Marylka and general book style. We tried different mediums and styles to see what will work the best.
Marylia is a young girl. She is very energetic, smart, and she is ready to help anyone in need. She is a very small in size, but is fierce and fearless.
Keeping this in mind, we tried to approach Marylka’s appearance very thoughtfully. Since this story was inspired by a Belarusian folk tale, we really wanted to incorporate elements of a Belarusian national costume into her wardrobe, hence the simple dress with a country style shirt. We also make her head rather large in proportion to her body to further demonstrate her small size. We also aimed at making the horsey really cute.
In the story, in return for her bravery, Marylka gets the most beautiful little pony, who in turn also becomes a main character. We took some time to find the pony’s image: at first we wanted to make the pony really big in order to use that as contrast to Marylka’s size, but then we decided to make her more proportional to Marylka so they can seem “on the same level”, showing their strong bond.
We used Belarus-inspired scenery for our background landscapes. Belarus is knows for it’s vast fields, dense forests and big skies.
The villains are pretty scary, but Marylka is smart enough to know she shouldn’t trust them.
Below is a the very first rough draft of the picture book, with the red lines representing text in Belarusian, and the blue – in English. This was composed very quickly to figure out the placement of all elements. Some pictures had later been changed.
A fairly muted (compared to many other contemporary children’s books) color palette was chosen for the book to convey a more sophisticated look. We strongly believe that children could and should be exposed to more complex color combinations from an early age, thus refining their taste and teaching them about balance and beauty in nature.
A cardboard texture was used for backgrounds to give the book a more “crafty” feel, thus referring to the importance of simple things, crafting quality objects with your hands, and using sustainable materials. A thick offset (non-glossy) paper choice strengthens the message.
All drawings were first drawn in pencil on paper, then scanned in and colored using digital techniques. Colors only from this palette were used.
This book was made possible by the many people who supported us during our 2016 crowdfunding campaign. Huge thanks to all who pitched in!