New Picture Books
Today’s real hero is a heroine
Recently-published picture books of detective stories and chicken adventures. And about a world that goes backwards, bedtime rituals, and feelings.
By Holger Moos
Laura D'Arcangelo’s picture book Herr Bert und Alfonso jagen einen Dieb (Mr. Bert and Alfonso Chase a Thief) is a real detective story. While it’s pretty obvious who exploits the situation to steal a handbag when the café waiter stumbles, suspicion falls on poor Mr. Bert, who is otherwise overlooked by everyone. But with the help of his dachshund Alfonso and a good measure of courage, he manages to catch the thief. The goache and pencil illustrations, reminiscent of the seventies, are a special feature of this colourful picture book. There are comic elements and changing perspectives. D'Arcangelo relies on very little text, but it contains hidden hints for making visual discoveries. “A picture book by an exciting new illustrator just brimming with narrative delight,“ is the verdict of Barbara Jakob-Mensch in Buch & Maus 1/21.
Irresistibly authentic and humorous pencil drawings are a highlight of Sebastian Meschenmoser’s illustrative art. In his latest work, Chick, he makes diversity the subject of a chicken adventure. Chick, the runt of a brood raised by a human being (the author!), dreams of becoming a cockerel, ruling the roost and going on adventures. These dreams are presented in brightly-coloured, wild comic drawings, slotted between black and white pictures. Of course, everything turns out differently, but who cares? Today’s real hero is a heroine.
Living backwardsThe world backwards, words backwards, living backwards. In verses accompanied by vibrantly-coloured panels featuring unusual, boldly-contoured figures, Henning Wagenbreth has created a language and fantasy game in Rückwärtsland (Backward Country). “These stories told backwards are adventures from a topsy-turvy world. They also always cheerfully rebuff boredom, whether they are set in a factory, are about our meat consumption, or make a road accident undone“ (Bayern 2). Packed with creative suggestions on spinning a yarn and humour.
There’s plenty of rough and tumble in Schlafen wie die Rüben (Sleeping like Turnips) by Finn-Ole Heinrich and Dita Zipfel, with illustrations by Tine Schulz. Things are always lively at the Turnip household until everyone - from mum and dad to the cuddly toys - are all asleep together in bed. An unusual language-play book seasoned with nonsense rhymes and spirited, bold illustrations in red, blue and black/grey. This book probably does not work very well as a soothing bedtime story, “but there is much to discover for anyone who wants to give older children a taste of wordplay and daftness“ (Deutschlandfunk).
30 pictures – 30 feelingsPutting feelings into words is not that easy! But maybe it works better if you find pictures? That is precisely what Kathrin Schärer does in her picture book Da sein (Being There). There’s a courageous meerkat on a diving board, a satisfied mouse munching a wild strawberry, an impatient ermine standing in a queue and an offended chameleon turning its back on another. “Fear, pleasure, anger and sorrow – 30 feelings in 30 expressive naturalistic animal pictures that are heart-warming, funny and lovingly-created – toddlers can discover and recognise feelings here“ (Bestenliste – Die besten 7 im März 2021, the best seven children’s books in March 2021)
Laura D'Arcangelo: Herr Bert und Alfonso jagen einen Dieb
Zürich: Atlantis, 2021. 48 p.
Finn-Ole Heinrich, Dita Zipfel & Tine Schulz (Ill.): Schlafen wie die Rüben
Hamburg: marisch, 2021. 32 p.
Sebastian Meschenmoser: Chick
Stuttgart: Thienemann, 2021. 64 p.
Kathrin Schärer: Da sein. Was fühlst du?
Hanser, 2021. 64 p.
Henning Wagenbreth: Rückwärtsland
Wuppertal: Peter Hammer, 2021. 40 p.