Relases » Interviews » Turkish Book Fair – Interview With Erika Bartos

Turkish Book Fair – Interview With Erika Bartos

You are an architect (at least you had an architecture degree). But you are writing and illustrating books for children. Meanwhile you have three children. As far as I know, you have begun to write after you had children. How did you start writing books and illustrating them for children?

I graduated with summa cum laude and received several architectural awards from the Budapest Technical University. After graduation, I worked as an architectural designer for years. I really like my original profession and architecture means a lot to me, but being a mother opened a brand new path. I wrote my first books for my children, not for publication, but more and more people asked me to borrow these books, they made copies of them, and finally, a publisher decided to bring them out. This is how my first book was born. Since then, I have published many, many books. I enjoy traveling on this road very much. This is, in a sense, returning to my original dreams, since I wanted to be a preschool teacher as a child.

Why do you prefer writing for children?

I like spending time with children; it is easy for me to find a common language with the little ones. I think the joyful nature of children makes our everyday life more beautiful. I find much pleasure in their openness and affectionate interest in the world. It keeps me young. Children have special kind of wisdom, clarity and a way of seeing what is important in life. It would be great if we could keep more of this attitude for our adult life.

Istanbul Book Fair - 2012 November

Bogyo es Baboca-Evszakos Könyv series consists of 16 books. Had you planned that it would become 17 books when you started to write this series? Will it continue or not? Please tell us this series’ story. How did you start to write it? What was your inspiration?

I started writing and drawing the series in 2003. I have a large number of new episodes ready in my head, and some of them are already in my drawer. I will continue the series: the 18th book will come out soon in Hungarian, and the 19th volume is forthcoming in Fall 2013. I like this series very much, and I hope to have inspiration for it even in 50 years.

The leading characters of the story are Berry the snail and Dolly the ladybird. They live in a forest and surrounded by their many friends: the butterfly, the stag beetle, the bee, and many more cute little creatures. Love and respect for nature is very important to me. Different plants, the Sun and the Moon are frequent characters in these stories as well. The characters I chose are small and very lovable: kids can know them from their own life.

Illustrations – Bartos Erika: Berry and Dolly series

The imaginative world in your books is very naive and childish (as if a child drew it). What do you say about this?

Previously, I had received many awards for my architectural drawings. Those were meticulous art works, tint drawings, lead engravings. But when I started writing and drawing for the youngest generation, only one thing was important for me: to make simple, understandable illustrations, text and story that children can grasp easily. Children can only become attached to things that they understand, things that speak their language, things that are dear to them. As a story teller for the little ones, I always tried to see the world through their eyes as if I was part of their world.

The simple illustrations in my books lend themselves easily to children and give them a sense of accomplishment. They can recreate the characters and it fills them with joy and success. They keep sending me pictures, which I’m very grateful for. I always thank them for those drawings since they become new inspirations for me. A simple drawing of a few lines can express so much, often they are more charged emotionally than a highly embellished illustration.

Architectural graphics of Bartos Erika

The last book of series is "Season Book". It is about four seasons and related activities. Themes of the book are friendship, cooperation and helping each other. Additionally children learn about insects and nature. There are lots of lovely characters in this book. Can we talk about this book?

This seasonal theme is very close to my heart. I like to pay attention to the beauty of nature, the changes in the landscape. Children also enjoy that very much: I don’t think there is a single child who wouldn’t be receptive to the beauties of nature since this is one of the first things they discover in their lives: the Sun, the flowers, the rain, the rainbow, the little insects in the grass etc.

My characters are diverse but they are all lovable. I enjoy developing their personality in my books. Dolly, the ladybird, one of the leading characters is lovable because she is nice, fragile, cute, shy, careful—she is a real girl. Berry, on the other hand, is courageous, hotheaded, easily offended, peevish but has a very gentle heart and is full of love. All the other characters have their unique personality.

Writer and illustrator of Berry and Dolly series

This book includes so many detailed illustrations. You have illustrated all events and situations precisely. Can we talk about your writing and illustrating processes? Which one comes first, writing the story or illustrating the characters? Is there a special character for you in this book?

First, a story is born in my head, and then I start drawing and writing the text. I draw and write simultaneously. Sometimes I modify an illustration to fit a well-written part of the text, other times the text is changed to work with the drawing. I polish the illustrations and text for a long time until they become a whole. I draw everything by hand using a lead pencil. When the picture is done, I use a felt-tip pen for the outline, scan the finished drawing and color it on the computer.

I really enjoyed Dr. Owl. He finds the best solution for the "struggle" between Stag beetle and Balthazar; so he wants everybody to make a snowman o themselves. This is a nice story which tells children how important it is to be yourself...

The stories are very colorful but they basically all have the same message: the importance of love, helping each other, being good, friendship, forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation. I put the most emphasize on the friendship between my characters, but I tell these things in stories accessible to little children. Benevolence and helpfulness are extremely important to me..

Some of the books which are written for children have too much pedagogical concern. As a writer, do you have pedagogical concerns while writing or planning your story? In your opinion, what is the function of stories for children, entertaining or teaching?

I find it very important that a story should give a child something to hold onto, a safe place for their mind. I use pedagogical elements, however, only indirectly. I never want to give children direct advice or guidance with my books. However, a good story always has a message beyond the surface.

Different houses in the Berry and Dolly series

There are lots of interesting insects in these books. And all of these insects have very different and interesting houses. What can you say about the relationship between architecture and illustrating children books? What are the positive sides of being an architect when you are writing and illustrating this series?

Thank you for this question, I enjoy this part of my job so much! When architecture and the story meet, when they are interwoven in a book—it gives me so much joy. I enjoyed creating the houses of the characters very much. Every character—there are almost 70 characters in the series—has its own house, and they always resemble their little owner. The ladybird’s house is dotted; the bee’s has stripes and so on. I paid attention to the interior design of these houses as well. The furniture, the toys, curtains or other household objects are in harmony with the owner. For instance, every furniture and toy in the ladybird’s house is dotted. Every character has their own unique colors, and those can be seen on the outside and the interior of these buildings.

Istanbul Book Fair - 2012 November

You were in Istanbul for Book Fair of Tüyap. What do you think about the little readers in Turkey?

My visit to Istanbul was a wonderful experience for me. I’m very grateful for the Yapı Kredi Publishing House for inviting me to the Istanbul Book Fair. I spent three unforgettable days in Istanbul. During these three days, I met with kindergarten and school groups, I told the little ones stories, showed them slides, drew to them, talked to them, I asked them many questions and they asked me too. These were fantastic, joyful meetings. It is wonderful to experience the universal nature of stories and art. The Turkish children laughed, wondered and posed questions exactly at the same episodes as the little Hungarian readers.

Turkish children are very open, curious, well-behaved and joyful. I had such a wonderful time at the ATAŞEHİR Elementary School where I showed my story slides to many groups. The program was organized very well, the technical support was excellent, I met many wonderful teachers, and it was a great honor to me to meet the headmistress of the school. It was very moving how they were waiting for me: they put together an exhibition of my books in the lobby of the school. I was deeply touched.

Finally, let me stress the importance of the translation. When you read a book translated from a foreign language, the translation is pivotal. I’m very happy that my books have been published in Turkish in such a wonderful translation. I could see that the Turkish children immediately loved my characters. The names of the characters are highly important. The Turkish translators made such a perfect job and gave affectionate, funny, unique names to my characters. Thanks for them!

Fairytale screening in Transylvania


Berry and Dolly won Best Short Film Award in China


International Children's Day at Embassy of Poland, in Tokio


Berry and Dolly puppet exhibition