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Reviewed by:
  • Eesti laste- ja noortekirjandus 1991–2012 by Krista Kumberg et al.
  • Katja Wiebe
    Translated by Nikola von Merveldt
Eesti laste- ja noortekirjandus 1991–2012 (Estonian literature for children and young adults 1991–2012). Krista Kumberg, Ilona Martson, Ave Mattheus, Mari Niitra, Jaanika Palm. Tallinn: Eesti Lastekirjanduse Keskus, 2014. 317pages. ISBN: 978-9985-9198-5-9

Anyone curious about Estonian children’s literature of the last two decades should definitely consult this 317-page compendium. The overview of the literary history, which can claim to be representative, begins in 1991 (the year of Estonian independence from the crumbling Soviet Union) and ends in 2012. It is the first comprehensive and systematic study of contemporary Estonian children’s literature.

Published by the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, the most important institution for the collection, research, and promotion of children’s literature in Estonia, this volume addresses a broad group of readers—including scholars, students, and librarians as well as educators and parents; publishers should equally be interested.

The five contributors to this volume are well known in the field and have helped shape Estonian children’s literature as researchers, translators, and mediators. They meticulously trace the gradual evolution of a new Estonian literary landscape and the processes leading to the reconstruction of the children’s book scene. Given the immense political and cultural transformations of the early 1990s, which also hit the book sector, the volume starts by sketching the socio-cultural context in which Estonian literature for children and young adults developed. They mark two pivotal dates: 1990 for the “collapse” and 2000 for the “blossoming” of children’s literature in Estonia.

Against this backdrop, Eesti laste-ja noortekirjandus introduces realistic and fantastic fiction for children as well as non-fiction published between 1991 and 2012, arranged by reading age (“Literature for early childhood,” children’s books, and young adult literature). Realistic fiction is subdivided into the categories of gender and genre (books for girls and for boys, problem books, crime and adventure novels) and into subject groups (orphanage, school, animals). Fantastic fiction provides an overview of the genres fairytales, the absurd, and science fiction and offers genre-specific characteristics, such as the irruption of the fantastic into the supposedly “normal” world and the departure of the familiar into the unfamiliar fantastic world. Separate chapters are dedicated to the genres of poetry and drama or theatre as well as to magazines for children and young adults and to the place of children’s literature within the digital, interactive media ecology.

A unique feature of this book is the strong focus on “History and childhood memories.” A long section explores how children’s literature since 1991 addresses the seven critical phases or events of Estonia’s history. The twentieth century takes center stage with topics such as Estonia’s first republic, the Second World War, the occupation, or the early and late phases of the Soviet era.

Furthermore, the compendium gives statistics on the Estonian children’s book production and awards. An extensive index of authors and illustrators completes the volume, which presents an indispensable resource on Estonian literature for children and young adults of the recent past. [End Page 67]

Katja Wiebe
International Youth Library


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