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Swimming: How did picture books about swimming come about?Blog guest: Jelena Trifunović, children's

It is a big responsibility to create illustrations, characters for children's picture books about swimming, and to have them interpreted in the right way, to convey the right message to the youngest. On the other hand, the everyday magic that the world of crayons and imagination can bring to swimming is priceless both for the youngest and for those who still have a child in them. Jelena Trifunović, a professor of Greek language who dared to swim into the magical world of children's illustrations, explains how picture books about swimming, stories about verses from the edge of the pool and how dreams come true were created.

Who gives colors to swimming picture books?

As a Swimming Dad #Blog guest, Jelena Trifunović, a children's illustrator, explains: Why is it important that children learn important life situations, including safe swimming, through illustrations in children's picture books? How important is the message that each illustration in a picture book about swimming conveys to children? How did the illustrated characters Jakov and Petra in picture books about swimming come about? How important is educating the youngest about safe swimming, as well as parents through picture books?

Why is it important that children learn important life situations and things, including swimming, through illustrations in children's picture books?

I think that children are learning easily when they have visual examples. Some of the biggest life lessons are kept in my memory thanks to books from my childhood. I used to cherish Heidi and her adventures, I would “go” hiking and swimming with her, and I think I will always remember all the colours and textures on hot air balloon illustrations.

How important is the message that each illustration in a picture book about swimming conveys to children?

It is important because of safety first! When children swim skillfully and securely, they can relax and enjoy and experience all the benefits of the water environment.

It is a big responsibility to create illustrations, characters for a children's picture book, and that they are understood and interpreted in the right way, to accompany the author's words...

I agree, but I think in this case it was quite easy for me because the author of these books is an expert in this field, which means I had all his help, advice and knowledge available at any time.

How did the illustrated characters Jakov and Petra in picture books about swimming come about?

They were inspired by real children! Jakov and Petra are passionate swimmers and their Dad’s best learners, they are so inspiring to me! Whenever I’m working on a book, I suggest to authors to put some tiny special details in illustrations, something that holds a personal value to them - nobody else needs to know about it, but it will remain as a memory. It was easy in this case, I had Jakov and Petra. They really grew up in the meantime and they are amazing swimmers now.

What does it look like to live in a world of crayons, creativity, children's verses and stories?

It’s amazing! I have this perfect little colourful bubble and I can’t believe I waited so long to start doing the job of my dreams…

Is it a challenge to be an illustrator of children's picture books in Serbia?

It is a challenge if you’re not working for a publishing house. But I have to admit, I’m quite lucky, book projects come to me easily and I’m always working on several books simultaneously.

Writers say that children are not easy to fool and that it is not at all simple to write for them. Is it the same with illustrations?

I believe as long as you grow and cherish your inner child, you will always be able to create in a childish way :)

How did the Greek language teacher dare to swim into the magical world of children's illustrations?

I was dreaming, thinking, calculating…and I came to the point that was now or never, so I jumped into the unknown! What pushed me the most was my wish to show my daughter that if we can dream something, we can achieve it. But I am still and always will be in love with Greek language and culture.

Does one become a children's illustrator of picture books, books by reading or drawing?

Definitely both! Ever since I was a 5 year old, my favourite scent was the smell of old books. I still remember the day my Mom took me to the library for the first time. It was love at first sight. I am still a passionate reader and I think being able to create all these worlds of imagination is what 30 years of active reading has given me.

Why a children's illustration?

I think it’s because it was always easier for me to connect with children. But the moment I was so sure about this decision was the moment I became a mother.

What does your process look like when creating illustrations for a children's picture book about swimming?

I read Vladimir’s script, fully enjoy it, and I instantly have these vivid images in my mind. Then I start from the beginning and gradually build the story with every new page.

How much imagination does it take to create 7 different educational picture books about swimming in a row?

It is hard for me to believe that we have done so many of them too! I think we did it only because we committed to each picture book individually, we were happy about it, we flipped and smelled its pages with enjoyment.

Is it possible to run out of drawing inspiration?

Let me tell you this big and important secret: the more you use your creativity, the more you have it! :)

How easy or difficult is it to relate to the text you need to illustrate about swimming?

I think I am able to do this because illustrating is my job, and just as any other, you know you have to do it, so you start your “engine”, get into your working mode, and just create.

How do you know a swimming illustration is good before you send it to the author?

Actually, I don’t know :) I send the illustrations to the author and then I am waiting for his impressions and review, as well as the list of corrections if needed. This is why I love the process of creating a book, because it is a project where the contributors are the author, printing company, myself and kids who give honest reviews at the end.

Who is your biggest critic before an illustration sees the light of day?

My daughter of course! She has to see every illustration I am working on, and she usually has a lot of questions about every detail! :)

From the point of view of a girl's parents, how important is the education of the youngest about safe swimming, but also of parents through picture books?

A lot of children are afraid of the water environments, they need quite a lot of time to relax and go into the water. I think picture books about safe swimming are a great way to prepare them in advance so that they know what to expect and how to react once they get to the beach or into the pool.

Does your daughter know how to swim?

My daughter is one of the sensitive ones. Even though she loves the idea of swimming, she was very afraid and intimidated when she had her first contact with the sea. But day by day, she was more relaxed and now she is in love with the water. She is starting her swimming lessons the following month and she is very happy about it!

How the collaboration with the author of the picture book about swimming, Vladimir Anušić - Swimming Dad, began?

I was contacted by Vladimir through my social media. It was one of the very first proper children's books that I got to work on. I can remember the exact moment he had sent me his script, which meant us working together was official! I also remember him saying how he has this whole edition in his mind, and all I was thinking was - let me just survive this first one! I was insecure and afraid. But after so many years of working on these books, I can safely say that Swimming Dad and his books are one of the best things that have happened in my illustration career so far.

More about Jelena Trifunović

Jelena Trifunović, in the last five years, illustrated more than 20 children's books, and as a brand designer she gave magic to many children's brands.

Through her Hey, Jelena Studio collaborates with brands and individuals in creating beautiful, colorful, magical and modern illustrations with a children's theme for ages 0 to 12, for children's books, brand identity and various products.

You can find it at:

Instagram: @hej_jelena


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