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Astana, Kazakhstan • 13 March, 2024 | 15:51

'Salem, Astana!' Is a Wholesome Guide to the Heart of the Kazakh Capital

A vibrant book to inspire kids and their parents to explore the sights of Astana

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Collage by QazMonitor (photo: Instagram/tamoru__)
Collage by QazMonitor (photo: Instagram/tamoru__)

When it comes to children’s books in Kazakhstan the first thing that comes to mind are fairy tales and young adult fiction stories. However, local authors prove there are more new forms and genres to explore, like blending a tourist guide with cartoon-like illustrations and city facts that do not bore you.

On February 16, Tentek Publishing House hosted a launch party for Salem, Astana! — a guidebook to the Kazakh capital city, featuring its most prominent and beloved sights and facts about them. The book is the second in the series, being a successor to Salem, Almaty! sharing with it the concept of exciting city exploration, yet having a unique style of its own, just like Astana. While clearly meant to captivate children with playful text by Yekaterina Payeskaya and illustrations by Aiko Abylkairova, Salem, Astana! will surely find interest among both kids and their parents, especially as the spring is about to bring back the cozy evening walks.

Captivated by the book, QazMonitor presents three things that make the book special.

Aiko Abylkairova (left) and Yekaterina Payeskaya (right); photo: Instagram/tentekbooks
Aiko Abylkairova (left) and Yekaterina Payeskaya (right); photo: Instagram/tentekbooks

Languages and expertise

The book has been published in three languages: Kazakh, Russian, and — quite rare for the local book market — English. What is striking about the translations is the attention to detail, as all three versions of the book share the wholesomeness and brevity of Payevskaya’s texts amplified by the knowledge of guest expert Temirtas Iskakov, founder of urban research project Fading TSE.

Edutainment done right

There are so many ways to do a children’s city guidebook wrong, one of the most common ones being overloading pages with facts and trivia just for the sake of it. Fortunately, that’s not the case for Salem, Astana! Every bubble and annotation blends well with the corresponding illustration; handwritten notes give a nice contrast to regular fonts. And most importantly, Payevsakya never uses more words than necessary to describe a building or a place. Just enough to spark the young reader’s curiosity with important historical facts.

Lowkey treasure hunt potential

Illustrator Aiko Abylkairova made sure the spirit of Astana lives in both its cityscapes and citizens. Every page is packed with many little actions, as cute characters walk along the bustling Arbat, go kayaking down the Esil River, or feed the ducklings in the Botanical Garden. Abylkairova’s experience as the Wimmellbook illustrator shows in small but accurate details, like petroglyphic bridge decorations, or people taking selfies hugging trees. Such visuals paired with the great text do what any great city guide must do — invite you to explore the city, look for its gems, and have fun doing it.

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