Once upon a time there was a bald doctor who became a writer – one of the most important Czech writers of the 20th century. He wrote many good books about all sorts of good things. Still, just one his book was for children.
Kubula and Kuba Kubikula by Vladislav Vančura (1891 – 1942) is a very traditional Czech winter book for children (6+), actually, it was selected in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, and I’m going to tell you about it.
The story of a boy, Kuba Kubikula, and his bear cub Kubula, is set in “the times when the world was still young and people readily believed in fairy tales”. Kuba and his naughty bear wander through the winter countryside, doing odd jobs and earning their bread.
One night the bear gets naughty too much, so Kuba Kubikula tells him a scary story about the bugbear Barbucha that comes into life, scaring the little bear. They wander together with their new spooky friend, having lots of adventures, and one very funny snowball fight.
Vladislav Vančura’s only children’s book was published in 1931 (my edition is from 1967), and it was a real surprise to his readers. Fairy tale? By Vančura? Wow, that’s novelty! Anyway, the sweet story of Kubula and Kuba Kubikula with Vančura’s absolutely beautiful Czech language became very popular, and still it is one of the most favourite Czech books for children.
What about the illustrations? Are they familiar to you? They might be.
The book was illustrated by Zdeněk Miler, the greatest father of the Little Mole, the most famous fairy tale character in Czech Republic. I wrote about it last year. Yet must say, the first edition of Kubula and Kuba Kubikula (1931) was illustrated by Ondřej Sekora, another gorgeous Czech artist.
Finally, you might also know the animated version of Kubula and Kuba Kubikula that was created by Zdeněk Smetana in 1986. If you like, you can watch it here.
Now I really wonder, which version of Kubula and Kuba Kubikula you like the most? Have you ever read the story? Or have you ever heard about it?
In any case, wherever you are, have a beautiful winter time with Kuba Kubikula, Kubula and Barbucha – if only you’re not pretty scared of it!