2011 Estonia

The Book Remembers

“When Arno and his father arrived at the schoolhouse, classes had already begun.”

In my homeland Estonia nearly everyone knows this line by heart. It is the first line of a book called “Spring”. It was published in 1912, and was written by the Estonian writer, Oskar Luts (1887 – 1953).

“Spring” is about the lives of the children attending a parish school in Estonia at the end of the 19th century. Oskar Luts was writing about his own childhood. The character Arno is actually Oskar Luts himself as a child.

Researchers study old documents and based on these they write history books. History books speak about events that have happened, but it is not always clear from the history books what ordinary people’s lives were like.

Storybooks remember the things that you cannot find in old documents. For example, they can tell us what a boy like Arno was thinking when he went to school a hundred years ago, or what children in those days dreamed of, what they were afraid of and what made them happy. The book also remembers the children’s parents, it remembers who they wanted to be like and the kind of future they wished for their children.

Of course we can write books today about the olden days too, and these are often very exciting. But a writer today cannot really know the smells and tastes, and the fears and joys of the distant past. Today’s writer already knows what happened next and how the futures of people in the past turned out.

The book remembers the time in which it was written.

From the books by Charles Dickens we can find out what a boy’s life was really like on the streets of London in the middle of the 19th century – at the time of Oliver Twist. Through the eyes of David Copperfield (Dickens’s own eyes at that time) we see all kinds of characters that were living in England in the middle of the 19th century – what their relationships were like, and how their thoughts and feelings influenced their relationships. Because David Copperfield was in many ways Charles Dickens himself, Dickens did not need to make things up, he just knew them.

It is also from a book that we know what it was really like for Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and their friend Jim as they travelled down the Mississippi at the end of the 19th century, when Mark Twain wrote about their adventures. He had a thorough knowledge of what people at that time thought about each other, because he lived among those people. He was one of them.

In works of literature, the most accurate accounts of people in the past are those written at the time that those olden day people lived.

The book remembers.


Written by Aino Pervik and translated by Ulvi Haagensen
Poster illustrated by Jüri Mildeberg

Download the poster here

Copies of the poster and flyer can be ordered from the IBBY Secretariat or from IBBY Estonia.​​​​​​​