New Picture Books
Animals, humans, feelings
Animals appear in unexpected places in recent picture books. They also convey the realisation that humans are strange creatures.
A crocodile in the swimming lake? That can’t be true! Or can it? Twelve very colourful scenes in
Ein Krokodil im Badesee? tell the story of the uproar caused by the headline. There’s a lot to look for, discover and puzzle over in each picture. Everything is designed so that little sleuths have fun and, of course, find out who’s behind the story. “Don’t believe everything you’re told!” A humorous hidden object book by Karin Gruß, illustrated by Dorota Wünsch, which playfully familiarises even the youngest with these words of wisdom.
It’s hard to believe it when you look out the window and suddenly see the largest mammal on earth. But in Sabine Rufener’s picture book debut Der Wal im Garten (The Whale in the Garden), that’s exactly what happens to Lille: One day she discovers a huge whale in her garden. It blocks the sunlight, crushes her bicycle, is grumpy and unfriendly. But the two gradually become friends. The whale tells the girl about the ocean, and when he shrinks more and more out of his longing for the sea, she takes him back to the water. The illustrator’s various printing techniques and use of collage, frottage, coloured pencils and ink, lend the big, often dark-toned pictures, a surreal, fantastical effect.
PUZZLING PEOPLEIn Barbara von den Speulhof’s picture book Amelie & die Entdecker (Amelie & the Explorers), the animals wonder about humans. Who’s suddenly landed in their jungle, some strange bird? The elephant sees that this creature has no trunk, the monkey discovers that its fur is missing. But they build the young naturalist Amelie a beautiful tree house as a nest and begin to observe her – this explorer who writes down and photographs everything the animals do. When her “explorer book” is finished, she gets “homesick for wanderlust” and has to move on. It’s an enjoyable topsy-turvy world, with bright, cheerful drawings by Mirjam Zels.
JOYFUL AND FURIOUSBinette Schroeder created two characters, Herr Grau & Frieda Fröhlich, who couldn’t be more contrasting. Yet they find each other through colour for, as we all know, opposites attract. Frieda Fröhlich has just painted a canary, which then escapes into the room of her neighbour, Professor Grau. His life – all around him is grey – is now gradually immersed in a bright world full of colour until the happy end. Binette Schroeder once again uses her typical painting technique, a mixture of gouache and watercolours. In combination with the sensitive text, the picture book becomes a sensory experience.
Britta Teckentrup’s Wütend (Furious) is about a feeling; and a fierce one. A luminous, dangerous storm sweeps a little girl away. It’s her anger that not only rages in the colours, but also ploughs through the waves of the boundless ocean. “I’m loud, I’m strong. I do as I please. No rules or boundaries, I conquer the seas.” And just as the uppercase letters dominate the pages, the young protagonist is also driven on and on, gaining strength: “My anger does me good. My anger makes me strong.” Strong enough to change something in the end, because anger has freed the girl and shows its healing effects. An unusual picture book, both artistically and in terms of its educational claim: It makes the case for anger!
München: Mixtvision, 2021. 32 p.
Sabine Rufener: Der Wal im Garten
Mannheim: Kunstanstifter, 2021. 36 p.
Binette Schroeder: Herr Grau & Frieda Fröhlich
Zürich: NordSüd, 2021. 26 p.
Barbara von den Speulhof / Mirjam Zels (Ill.): Amelie & die Entdecker
München: Mixtvision 2021, 24. p
Britta Teckentrup: Wütend
München: Prestel 2021. 40 p.