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

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 articipants 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!