Prestel Children's to publish Skibiński's Second World War diary

Prestel Children's to publish Skibiński's Second World War diary

Prestel Children's has acquired I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker, a "remarkable" Second World War diary, written by an eight-year-old Polish boy, Michał Skibiński, in 1939.

The memoir was originally published in Skibiński’s native country and language in 2019, when his nephew Marcin, now the owner of the original notebook, approached Polish publishing house Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry (Two Sisters). Prestel acquired rights from Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry and will publish the first English language edition on 7th October 2021.

In 1939, Skibiński was tasked with writing a diary over the summer holidays, "to improve his terrible writing" and in order to move up a grade at school. "Eloquent in its simplicity, the journal is a remarkable artifact that captures the innocence of childhood and the trauma of war", the publisher said. The author now lives in a home for retired priests in Poland.

Skibiński receiving the Polish edition of the book in 2019/20, taken by his nephew Marcin Skibiński

The diary will be illustrated by Ala Bankroft’s "evocative" paintings to create a "very powerful" memoir for middle-grade readers. Bankroft (the pseudonym of Helena Stiasny) is a Polish painter, photographer and film animator. Her illustrations for this book received a special mention in the Opera Prima category at the BolognaRagazzi Award 2020 from the Bologna Children‘s Book Fair.