Most significant Croatian children’s books

We are often asked for a list of children’s books in the Croatian language. Some requests are from Croatian diaspora trying to get their hands on some for their children abroad and others are foreigners living in Croatia who want to help their children learn Croatian. From personal experience, many native Croatians have suggested reading Croatian children’s books as a good way for foreigners to learn the language since they speak on such a basic level.

Just like we had children’s books that were common and widely read wherever we grew up, so does Croatia. Some of Croatia’s children’s books are even recognized around the world. Many are included in the mandatory school reading called “lektira”. This means that children must read them independently at their homes while attending elementary school.

Below are a few outstanding Croatian authors and their children’s books that every child (and possibly foreign adults) will enjoy. We also include links so you can get your hands on them.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Our collection of Croatian children’s books

#1 Ivan Kušan: Koko (series)

Ivan Kušan, Croatian author, cover of Koko u Parizu
Image by Školska knjiga

Ivan Kušan (August 30, 1933 – November 20, 2012) is a Croatian writer and academic who worked as an editor of literature and fine arts as well as a lecturer at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb.

Ivan has won numerous awards including the Vladimir Nazor Award for lifetime achievement, which is given annually for artistic achievements. He is famous for his book series Koko, which includes 9 children’s novels.

The protagonist of the series is a boy called Koko who loves to play detective. All the novels are suspenseful and exciting. Koko u Parizu (Koko in Paris) stands out for its playfulness, intrigue, and comedy. Through Koko’s adventures in Paris, he learns that a restless conscience will lead to nightmares.

Novels included in the Koko series are:

  • Uzbuna na Zelenom Vrhu – Buy here
  • Koko i duhovi – Buy here
  • Domaća zadaća – Buy here
  • Zagonetni dječak – Buy here
  • Lažeš, Melita – Buy here
  • Koko u Parizu – Buy here
  • Strašni kauboj – Buy here
  • Ljubav ili smrt – Buy here
  • Koko u Kninu – Buy here

Year: 1956 – 1996
Age: 10-13
School program: Yes, 5th grade

#2 Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić: Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića

Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Croatian author, cover Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića
Image by Školska knjiga

Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (April 18, 1874 – September 21, 1938) is recognized as one of the most important children’s writers in the world. Since she was the mother of 7 children, she understood the children’s world and their imagination. Due to her original ideas and virtuosity, Ivana is often called Hrvatski Andersen (Croatian Andersen, which references Hans Christian Andersen) and Hrvatski Tolkien (Croatian Tolkien). Her novels are translated into all the major foreign languages and performed in theatrical, radio, and movie adaptations.

Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića is Ivana’s first novel. It is a story about a young šegrt (apprentice) called Hlapić. Hlapić works in a shoe-making workshop of majstor Mrkonja (master Mrkonja) and his wife. Mrkonja treats him badly and accuses him of making boots that are too tight. In response, innocent Hlapić decides to stretch out the boots by going on a seven-day trip.

On his way, Hlapić does many good deeds. He meets a world full of temptations, but nothing bad happens to him thanks to his good soul. He is accompanied by Mrkonja’s dog Bundaš and along the way meets Gita, a girl with a chattering parrot on her shoulder.

Hlapić’s character teaches children that with the help of faith, good can always defeat evil. This novel is cheerful, positive, and fun to read. It is one of the first books that I read as a child and I still feel the same feeling of excitement and happiness when I remember Hlapić and his sweet adventures.

Book: Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića (The Brave Adventures of Hlapitch; The Marvellous Adventures of Hlapić the Apprentice)
Year: 1913
Age: 9-12
School program: Yes, 3rd grade

You can buy this book here.

#3 Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić: Priče iz davnine

Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Priče iz davnine
Image by Školska knjiga

Priče iz davnine is a collection of 8 stories for which Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić has been nominated for a Nobel prize. Ivana became famous all over the world thanks to this book that includes both elements of reality and imagination. The main characters are real people who are influenced by miraculous creatures and their spells. They often get in trouble, but then get out because of their wisdom, persistence, and kindness.

Most stories take place in the woods. The primary lesson that children learn from this book is that problems and troubles can be solved if you are persistent and kind – a lesson that can be hard to remember as adults.

Book: Priče iz davnine (Croatian Tales of Long Ago; lit. Stories from Ancient Times)
Year: 1916
Age: 9-12
School program: Yes, 4th and 6th grade

You can buy this book here.

#4 Mato Lovrak: Vlak u snijegu

Mato Lovrak, Vlak u snijegu
Image by Školska knjiga

Mato Lovrak (March 8, 1899 – March 13, 1974) was the writer who introduced rural children as the main protagonists in Croatian children’s literature. City children weren’t often included in his novels and their portraits are lifeless. He worked as a teacher for more than 35 years and that is why he paid attention to children and their adventures.

Vlak u snijegu is one of the most notable of Mato’s novels, inspired by an actual event in his career as a young teacher. It is a story about fourth-graders who went on a school trip by train to the city. On their return, the train got stuck in the snow. The good students worked together to dig out the train. On the other side, lazy students showed that discord, selfishness, and envy lead to nothing.

The story revolves around Ljubo who comes from a peasant family, and Pero, an antihero from a well-to-do family. Ljubo has the qualities of a good leader and Pero is selfish and has no virtues. Through their characters, Mato compares the value of ordinary workers and peasants with lazy and corrupted “gentlemen” (rich people).

Book: Vlak u snijegu (A Train in the Snow)
Year: 1931
Age: 7-10
School program: Yes, 3rd grade

You can buy this book here.

#5 Ratko Zvrko: Grga Čvarak

Ratko Zvrko, Grga Čvarak
Image by Školska knjiga

Ratko Zvrko (April 20, 1920 – September 23, 1998) is a favorite children’s poet known for piquing the interest of children’s imaginations. For his collection of poems Grga Čvarak, Ratko was awarded the Grigor Vitez Award, the most significant award for children’s books in Croatia.

Ratko worked as a publicist, journalist, reporter, and editor in Vjesnik, Večernji list, Arena, and Globus. [Read: Where to get your Croatian news]

The most famous song from the collection Grga Čvarak shares the same name. It is humorous and full of amusing rhymes adapted for children. The protagonist of the song is Grga Čvarak, a skinny boy who does everything upside down. Grga shoots cats from a slingshot, jumps over walls, takes down bird nests, pulls chickens by the tail, and fights with other children. Everyone would say he is a bad boy, but he is just mischievous.

In fact, Grga is always ready to help and has a big brave heart. He helps his mother when she is ill and sympathizes with little Mia who fell into a ditch and scratched her knee. Sometimes children are naughty but that doesn’t mean they do not have a good underneath the mischief.

Book: Grga Čvarak
Year: 1967
Age: 7-10
School program: Yes, 2nd grade

You can buy this book here.

#6 Sanja Pilić: Maša (series)

Sanja Pilić, Croatian author, cover of Maša (series)
Image by Školska knjiga

Sanja Pilić (May 16, 1954 – ) is a Croatian poet and writer with experience in photography and animated movies (cartoons). Sanja collaborated with the Autonomous Women’s House in Zagreb and worked with abused children. She is a member of various judging committees for children’s creativity and participant at different children’s literary gatherings. Sanja is the winner of various literary awards.

Maša is a series of short stories about the adventures of the curious girl Maša. This series is suitable for kindergarten children who are learning or have recently learned to read – or foreigners who are at the start of their Croatian journey.

Maša’s stories are demonstrated by adorable illustrations. Each book covers different experiences such as the zoo, carnival, village, sports, birthday, museums, animals, summer, and Christmas.

Books included in the Maša series are:

  • Maša i gosti – Buy here
  • Maša i nova učenica – Buy here
  • Maša i životinje – Buy here
  • Maša i Božić – Buy here
  • Maša i ljeto – Buy here
  • Maša i muzej – Buy here
  • Maša i klaun – Buy here
  • Maša i bajke – Buy here
  • Maša i putovanje – Buy here
  • Maša i kazalište – Buy here
  • Maša i sport – Buy here
  • Maša i učiteljica – Buy here
  • Maša i selo – Buy here
  • Maša i maškare – Buy here
  • Maša i rođendan – Buy here
  • Maša i zoološki vrt – Buy here
  • Maša i film – Buy here
  • Maša i zima – Buy here
  • Maša i izlet – Buy here

Year: 2011 – 2021
Age: kindergarten
School program: No

More resources about education in Croatia


Sources:
https://www.kkd-ibm.hr/poznati-brodani/ivana-brlic-mazuranic/
https://www.lektira.hr/price-iz-davnine-ivana-brlic-mazuranic/
https://www.lektire.hr/cudnovate-zgode-segrta-hlapica/
https://enciklopedija.hr/natuknica.aspx?id=67587
https://www.lektire.hr/grga-cvarak/
https://www.enciklopedija.hr/Natuknica.aspx?ID=37266
https://www.enciklopedija.hr/Natuknica.aspx?ID=37266
http://www.sanjapilic.hr/
https://www.enciklopedija.hr/natuknica.aspx?id=34779
https://www.lektire.hr/autor/ivan-kusan/

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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