Text: Magdalena Gigova
The novel, ‘Dobry’, by Monica Shannon, with illustrations by Bulgarian artist Atanas Katchamakoff, will be published by the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund in a special typeface designed for people with reading difficulties: ‘Adys’ facilitates reading for dyslexia sufferers. These are people whose thinking is outside the box and who have a different way of perceiving the world. It is no coincidence that in each department of NASA, there is a requirement to hire at least one dyslexic person.
The designer of the specific characters, developed during her Master’s programme at the National Academy of Arts, is Kristina Kostova. ‘I wanted to create a font that helps dyslexics, but at the same time does not hamper the average reader’, the designer told Radio Free Europe.
The features that make Adys easily legible are hidden in subtle changes in the style of the letters: in their weight, upper and lower lengths, and the distance between the individual characters.
NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ chose this font that facilitates reading, with the idea that the widest possible circle of readers will come to love ‘Dobry’.
The Fund officially obtained the copyright of the novel for children and adolescents, hitherto unknown in Bulgaria, from Penguin Publishing House. First published in 1934, the novel broke sales records. To this day, the book has been reprinted twelve times and has become a classic.
How did the story of a Bulgarian peasant boy at the beginning of the 20th century become the favourite reading of American children and adolescents? With luck, and with its treatment of eternal values. The artist and sculptor Atanas Katchamakoff was not only the creator of the illustrations, but also the main character in the tale.
He was born in 1898 in Lyaskovets. From an early age, the youngster demonstrated a talent for drawing. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Sofia, where he was admitted to Prof. Ivan Lazarov’s sculpture class. In 1924, he departed for Paris and then to the US.
In Hollywood, he began working as a sculptor for the super-productions ‘Ben-Hur’, ‘The King of Kings’, ‘Helen of Troy’, and ‘Noah’s Ark’.
Over 80 years ago, the children’s book ‘Dobry’ came to life spontaneously. In the evenings, friends used to gather at the sculptor’s house, each having to share their own story. When the host began to unravel memories of his childhood and youth, writer and journalist Monica Shannon insisted on taking notes.
The Canadian-born author turned the stories into a book, which was published in New York in November 1934. Only a month later, it was awarded as the most interesting work in the US for December. A jury chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the president at the time, presented the prize. In June of the following year, ‘Dobry’ also won the Medal awarded in the name of John Newbery (1713–1767) for ‘the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children in 1934’.
The novel ‘Dobry’ has already been translated into Bulgarian by the poet Maria Doneva. You can read our interview with her, here: