Kaytek, a schoolboy who wants to become a wizard, is surprised to discover that, with practice, he is able to perform magic spells and change reality. With prospects of mischief in mind, he conceals his powers and playfully causes strange incidents in his school and neighborhood. Though harmless at first, Kaytek’s antics and increasing abilities soon wreak major chaos around the city of Warsaw, and the police start searching for the cause.
Disillusioned, Kaytek leaves the country and wanders the world in search of the meaning of his unique abilities and their consequences. As Kaytek experiences a loss of innocence, the tone of the story and the accompanying illustrations get steadily darker. Revolving around the notion that power is not without responsibility nor without repercussions, this story speaks to every child's dream of freeing themselves from the endless control of adults, and shaping the world to their own designs.
Written by Janusz Korczak, published in Polish in 1933
First English translation
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Illustrated by Avi Katz
ISBN9780983868507, $17.95, Hardcover, 272 pages
Juvenile Fiction / Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic, August 2012
Long Form Honorable Mention in the international 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award
Antonia Lloyd-Jones is the WINNER of the 2012 Found in Translation Award, given by the Polish Cultural Institutes in London and New York, the Krakow-based Polish Book Institute, and W.A.B. Publishers of Warsaw, for her body of work from 2012 which includes Kaytek the Wizard.
From Kirkus Reviews
“The story is riveting, complex and thought-provoking. Young Kaytek, filled with the fairy tales his mother and grandmother tell him, wants to take control of his life and begins to study wizardry. His magic soon turns his streets, his school and all of Warsaw topsy-turvy and even draws the attention of the League of Nations. After an ocean voyage, a brief film career in Hollywood, imprisonment and transformation into a dog, Kaytek returns home a wiser, more responsible and more humane person. The translation is excellent, and notes are provided to help readers understand local customs and geography…. Students of children’s literature will find the book and the afterword illuminating.”
From Children's Literature
"Kaytek likes to make bets. He likes to play tricks. He discovers the greatest trick of all and finds the ability to harness his mind and will to change reality. He is a wizard. At first he masters only small things, but his power slowly grows. The greater his power becomes, the greater the mischief he can cause. The tricks and the power thrill him for a moment, but regret soon follows with the consequences of his actions. Determined to better control his thoughts and on the run from the police, Kaytek journeys to France and beyond searching for wisdom and a better life for himself, for even magic can't solve all problems. Originally published in the 1930s, author Korczak created the story of Kaytek for the children in the central Warsaw orphanage for Jewish children which he ran. He wanted to explore with these children ideas about power, responsibility and consequences. Despite his mischievousness, Kaytek is an intelligent boy with a good heart. His story is quite enjoyable. Recommended." Reviewer: Kasey Giard.
“The book Kaytek the Wizard gives the teachers the opportunity to examine the life of Janusz Korczak and the Holocaust.”
- Dr. Paul B. Winkler, New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education
From Hadassah Magazine
"Harry Potter, step aside. The young hero of Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak... has sufficient power to transform his gluttonous classmate’s breakfast into a frog and then to soar skyward and land on the roof of a Warsaw tram. As his proficiency at magic increases, he explores a complex cosmos, interacting with Africans and Americans and zooming across oceans and continents.
The author is the legendary Holocaust hero who voluntarily accompanied the Jewish children of his orphanage to Treblinka. This first English publication of his enduring classic grants Korczak a posthumous victory of a kind. Readers will learn that boy wizards, like all children, must tread carefully as they navigate their way through a complex world."
From the AJL Newsletter
"The reader or listener has the satisfaction of seeing the tables turned and witnessing a child controlling the adults around him. The book is handsomely illustrated by the well-known Israeli illustrator and cartoonist, Avi Katz, with full-page dramatic scenes in monochrome and a full-color cover showing Kaytek flying over the city…. a book by one of the outstanding Jewish educators and heroes of the Holocaust period, and as such it has Jewish resonance, meaning and importance. There is a valuable afterward by the translator, Antonia Lloyd-Jones that gives readers historical information about Janusz Korczak and this book…. Kaytek the Wizard is recommended for libraries with Holocaust collections and other works by and about Janusz Korczak."
From The Jewish Week
"Designed to entertain and educate, this is the story of a mischievous schoolboy who discovers that he has great magical skills, but ultimately learns that with these powers come responsibility. Antonia Lloyd-James, the translator, points out in an afterword that Korczak wrote this in consultation with the orphanage children. The book is great reading for children and their parents, with illustrations by Avi Katz."
From the Wales Art Review
"…the strength of this ambivalent ending is that it allows readers to reflect on their own responsibilities in life, just as Korczak seems to have wanted.The English translation of Kaytek the Wizard was published by a new publisher and if this book is anything to go by, Penlight is one to watch. Kaytek the Wizard is a moving story because of its plot but also because of its author’s history. It is a magical read."
From the Jewish Book Council
"… a curious book, both playful and dark."
From Midwest Book Review
"Reality at the whim of a schoolboy isn't the best situation for reality. "Kaytek the Wizard" tells of the beginnings of a schoolboy's realization that he has the power of magic in his hands. But his mischief at first turns into something more, he soon learns that there are consequences to his actions. A coming of age tale with a good dose of sorcery with illustrations from Avi Katz, "Kaytek the Wizard" is a humorous and much recommended read for fans of youthful fantasy."
From Bookfoolery and Babble
"Recommended. A fascinating Polish fantasy that will appeal to many ages. Like reading a book and comparing it to the movie or reading a novel and comparing it to the script, it's fun to read Kaytek the Wizard to compare it to modern fantasy…. Kaytek the Wizard is definitely an adventurous story and, in the end, I closed the book satisfied."
From The Planet Esme Plan
Listed as one of the "Best Books of 2012"
From The Jewish Eye
"Kaytek the Wizard is an outstanding work of fiction in its own right and one that will continue to delight readers for generations to come. A monumental work of children's literature, this book deserves an honored place in all public and private libraries, both religious and secular."
From City Book Review
"What I liked about the book is that it had wizardry, magic spells, and adventure, although sometimes it was too adventurous for me."
-Christina, age 8
From R&B: Read and Blog
"We all grew up with similar books and stories, this one just happens to be more in depth and with more to say…. It is an interesting read about a time and country not too many people in North America knew much about in the 1930s. There is a very good Translator's Afterword, which I found very compelling."
From The Arts Fuse
"For those who, albeit dangerously late, are looking for a tough-minded rejoinder to the Harry Potter cult, the first English translation has arrived of Kaytek the Wizard (Penlight Publications, 272 pages, $17.95), a marvelous fable by Janusz Korczak…. For Korczak, children and adults must learn to take moral responsibility for their fantasies."
Click here to hear Antonia Lloyd-Jones, the translator of Kaytek the Wizard, discuss the book on the Polish National Radio.