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//Lala Lolka, or ‘Chill Out, Parents’// – Sylwia Chutnik

Lala Lolka, or ‘Chill Out, Parents’ – Sylwia Chutnik

Sylwia Chutnik – bio note – p.4.

Lala Lolka, or ‘Chill Out, Parents’

So it usually goes that parents are the ones who cause the most trouble. Not only do they insist on panicking, they also stick their nose where it doesn’t belong and create unnecessary problems. When I picked up the book Lala Lolka, I thought it would be a story of blood-thirsty children, teasing a boy that likes playing with dolls. And yes, Lolek has his favourite doll, Wiola, and refuses to part with it even at the kindergarten. It turns out, though, that the children from his group really don’t mind. It is the kindergarten teacher that can’t wrap her head around it: how can a boy play with non-boy toys? As if some children’s rule book said that pink teddies and dolls are for girls, while blue cars and guns belong to boys. The teachers shakes her head, snorts that it isn’t right, produces long speeches about the only appropriate toys. What she doesn’t know is that Lolek is too self-confident to give in to her argumentation and simply decides to leave the unfriendly kindergarten. Well, good for him, there is no point in spending time in a place where nobody wants us. Fortunately, Lolek does not get seriously lost, but he does scare everyone around. Once he is found, his dad enters the scene, trying to explain it to the teacher that houses really don’t fall apart when boys play with dolls. The lady is adamant, though, muttering something about negative impact and becoming a laughing stock. Then she looks around herself and she sees kids playing with whatever they can grab. As it turns out, all of her preaching just doesn’t apply, and the stereotypes describing what toys should kids play have nothing to do with reality. Huh, finally, a gender story that got published, you may think. And it is not even a translation from Swedish. The book was created by an extremely talented drafter, who created a comforting story about the force of habits and wrong attitudes towards what children should or should not do. A nice story with no unnecessary moralising. No one can pick on it for being just a piece of wool-pulling, feminist propaganda – toys are for everyone, regardless of gender, and nobody should make a fuss out of this ostensible ‘toy trouble’ which causes parents to tear their hair out. So many times have I seen parents smile at me shyly when their boy paraded around the sandbox, proudly pushing a baby stroller. They whisper some excuses, ‘Oh, we just don’t know what to do about him’, as if it were some kind of sinister behaviour that challenged the holy order of things. Parents, let it go already, let your children play with what they want.

The graphic layout of the book is also very important. It is a true masterpiece, in which you will find everything that is characteristic to Bogucka’s work: geometrical shapes, slightly reminiscent of the Polish school of illustration, subdued colours and playing with forms. The final effect reminds me of her illustrations to M.O.D.A., a book published by Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry, but here, the narrative part is much more developed. It also brings a lot of aesthetic pleasure, not limited to those who will appreciate the retro touch. Thanks to the fact that the drawings are very clear and closely connected with the story, children will also have fun watching a crowded bus or a picture showing a hasty family breakfast (with the father holding the iconic newspaper of course). The review would not be complete without mentioning the editorial aspect of the publication – all those canvas-glued, sew-bound pages come with a bonus: a possibility of signing the book at the front page and a cut-out on the last page that allows you to dress your doll as you like. If only adult books were published like that, our libraries would be completely different.