What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?
Small as an elbow, cheerful as a bird, brave as the prince Marko, wise as a book, and as good as the sun. (My translation) He was Hlapić, the shoemaker apprentice, an orphan who decided to run away from his always angry master’s home. The book, written in 1913 by Ivana Brlić Mažuranić, a Croatian writer, tells the Marvellous Adventures of the Apprentice Hlapić, who goes to the world with his masters’ dog Bundaš and a little girl from a Circus he meets in his way named Gita, who wants to know what it’s like to have a mother. The little apprentice manages to rescue some peasants from a fire and helps a poor family who is about to be attacked by a burglar (the big menacing dark figure in the cover of the book). Finally he decides to bring Gita to his master’s home to introduce her to the master’s wife, a kind woman, he thinks can resemble a mother. Against all odds, he shoemaker gladly greets Hlapić and he and his wife recognise in Gita their long-lost daughter.
I liked a lot the adventures of little Hlapić, the happy end, and the drawings of the book. I Remember that I thought how lucky was I, that had mom and dad, and didn’t have need or reason to run away from home.
I don’t know if the book influenced the person I’m now. I don’t know if the tales influence so much. I learned to read Croatian with this book. This was something important for me. As an emigrant, I learned the language by oral tradition from my parents but I didn’t have the chance to study grammar or language. This was my first book. My second book in Croatian was Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Pretty difficult for me then. It was my older sister’s book. It had beautiful illustrations I loved, with beautiful paintings of the Swiss Alps.