Photo: Gerhard Howald
For the first time... the charming children's book Joãn is available in Portuguese.
Publisher to Reprint Portuguese Version of Children’s Book by German-American Artist Jan Balet
August 25, 2017
Saratoga Springs, NY – Little did the family of German-American artist Jan Balet (1913-2009) expect that the website they created to highlight the artist and his work would prompt a message from a professor at the University of Lisbon. But that is exactly what occurred.
Several months ago, an art professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon happened upon the janbalet.com website and discovered reference to a favorite book from his childhood. He was immediately drawn to the idea that Balet’s tale of a young boy from a Portuguese fishing family would still be relevant to children in Portugal today.
After corresponding with upstate New York residents Peter and Marie Balet, the artist’s son and daughter-in-law, the professor asked permission to put the couple in contact with a publisher in Matosinhos, Portugal who specializes in children’s books. Several more contacts led to a contract with the publisher, Kalandraka Publishing House, to reprint João, a Portuguese Tale in Portuguese, one of the three languages in which the original 1965 book was printed. (It was also published in English and German and carried the title Joanjo, a variation of the Portuguese name.)
This marks the third time in recent years that a children’s book by Jan Balet was selected for reprint. Balet was working in New York City as a graphic illustrator when he created his first book for children – Amos and the Moon – as a Christmas gift for his only son. Long out of print, the book returned during the 2015 holiday season through the efforts of Jan Balet’s family – working with U.S. publisher Ammo Books. Ammo is also responsible for the 2016 reissuance of The Five Rollatinis, the story of a young boy who seeks to find his place in his family’s circus act.
During the early years of his career, Jan Balet lived in the U.S., working as a graphic artist and art director for such magazines as Seventeen and Mademoiselle. Although he had become a U.S. citizen, he moved back to Germany in 1965 and focused his efforts on the fine arts, including painting, lithography, and etching. He is the author and illustrator of more than ten children’s books and created the illustrations for dozens of children’s books penned by other writers.
According to the artist’s son, Peter, one of his father’s unique gifts was his ability to translate life lessons into fun stories with characters and illustrations based on places the artist had visited or unusual places he had imagined. “This is especially true with his João story. He takes the dreams of a young boy to leave his family’s small fishing town for the big city and captures the extravagance of childhood imaginings to a very unusual end.”
Following Jan’s death in Switzerland in 2009, Peter Balet and his wife Marie established Jan Balet Art Preservation LLC. After much research regarding Jan Balet and his art, the company launched a website – janbalet.com - in November 2015 designed to introduce new audiences to the full breadth of the artist’s work. The Portuguese company has begun work on the project and the book is expected to be available this October for the 2017 holiday season.