The success of Endel and Kati, by Kadri Kiho and Stella Salumaa, began with winning first place in the Knee-High Book Competition for children’s book manuscripts. Although meant for rather young readers, its two main characters are grown-ups.

Endel is a bus driver who feels so at home behind the wheel that he wears slippers instead of shoes while driving. Kati is his faithful co-worker, who lives somewhere behind the colorful lights on the dashboard. Whenever Endel begins his bus route, Kati’s mellow but confident voice announces the names of the stops through the speakers. One Thursday morning, Kati falls ill and Endel must manage the announcements by himself. Speaking in public is his absolute least favorite thing, so he’s understandably thrown into a panic. How will he be able to squeak out names like Five-Toe, Penguinless, Duckery, or Ertshertsog Ernst Square?

Kiho’s use of language is wonderful, and she gives her imagination free rein when inventing witty names. Some are humorous takes on actual Tallinn bus stops or given flair with childlike spelling, others are the fruits of her own fantasy: Empterdi, Ocher Cat, and Front Paw, for example. It sometimes seems as if the author is testing the reader’s literacy and awareness! 

Whereas Endel and Kati is funny on an expressive level, it also raises important universal and very human topics. Using the dilemma faced by the driver, who gradually overcomes his apprehension and even becomes enthused by the task, Kiho invites us to consider mental health challenges like anxiety. In doing so, she also encourages readers to face their fears, try out new things, and perhaps even make unexpected discoveries, all to avoid leaving life unlived and dreams unrealized.

Endel and Kati is the illustrating debut of animator and comics artist Stella Salumaa. The fluidly integrated pictures and text form a whole that enchants readers big and small.

Kadri Kiho, Stella Salumaa

Endel and Kati

Päike ja Pilv, 2022, 43 pp.

ISBN 9789916630259