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Topsy-turvy worlds

The stories told in picture books these days are fantastical, full of adventures and fun. Animals drive construction vehicles and are puzzled by humans, while grown-ups are taught a lesson by children – and the Moon orders itself a dress.

By Holger Moos

Wolfsgruber: Ein Kleid für den Mond © Jungbrunnen In Linda Wolfsgruber’s Ein Kleid für den Mond (A Dress for the Moon), the Moon wants to have the kind of beautiful gown that people on Earth wear. It finds itself a tailor willing to sew the dress, but the tailor becomes increasingly frustrated because the Moon keeps growing in size and then getting smaller again, so the tailor has to take its measurements over and over again. In the end, both realize that the moonlight itself is the most beautiful garment the Moon could have. Wolfsgruber’s highly artistic and poetic picture book is loosely based on a fairy tale by Ludwig Aurbacher. Colourful collages depict the tailor’s workshop and tools, a patchwork of beautiful fabrics is presented and a measuring tape serves as a leitmotif.

Pauli / Zedelius: Entschuldigung © Atlantis Little Juri is whizzing through the town on his racing bike. Suddenly, a man comes round the corner and Juri crashes into him. The man is sent flying into a bush, but luckily he’s a doctor and can patch himself up with a plaster. He thinks Juri’s bike is amazing and wants to have a go on it. Straightaway he collides with a parked car and asks a woman for some nail varnish to cover up the scratch, but it doesn’t work. Though Juri sensibly keeps suggesting that he should apologize to the owner of the car, the doctor refuses. The story gradually drifts into a turbulent fantasy world until the doctor finally gives in and sees the error of his ways. In Entschuldigung (Sorry) by Lorenz Pauli and Miriam Zedelius, it is the child who teaches the grown-up a lesson in how to behave decently. Miriam Zedelius’ illustrations heighten the comic elements of the story.

Turning the world on its head

Johansson / Hermanowski: Von Krawattenmännchen, Vielfraßen und Faulpelzinnen © Kraus Von Krawattenmännchen, Vielfraßen und Faulpelzinnen (About Tie-wearers, Greedy Guts and Lazybones) is all about a rather different zoo: humans are kept in cages and enclosures and animals come to look at them. For the animal children, a visit to the zoo is quite an adventure. They can watch how the humans work, do sport, go shopping, play the big boss, celebrate carnival, drive cars or act as grandparents. At the petting zoo they are even allowed to feed the humans. The book really pokes fun at the lives of humans and presents a thoroughly enjoyable topsy-turvy world. Juri Johansson and the illustrator Barbara Hermanowski have an instinctive sense of what children find odd about grown-ups, as it is not only animals that are puzzled by humans in the story – the young are also confused by how the old behave.

Könnecke: Buddeln, Baggern, Bauen © Hanser Everyone knows how children love to dig and build things. Great big machines and construction vehicles hold a particular fascination for youngsters. This is the subject of Ole Könnecke’s story Buddeln, Baggern, Bauen (Digging, Excavating, Building). But the world is turned on its head in this picture book, too: big construction machines help the animals with their work, as well as in some rather absurd situations. For instance, Ms Sheep the sculptor uses her wheel loader to transport not only her groceries, but also a large block of stone. Thanks to her wheel dumper, Ms Elephant can bring the animal children the sand they need at the playground. And Ms Cow is finally able to place a piano in the field using her telescopic crane – which was about time given that she is a concert pianist. Könnecke offers a good blend of technical equipment and fantasy, and there’s lots going on in his colourful illustrations. Don’t be surprised if your children start using all kinds of technical vocabulary after looking at the pictures and reading this book!

Courage and freedom

Waechter: Weltreise mit Freunden © Beltz & Gelberg At the beginning of Philip Waechter’s new picture book Weltreise mit Freunden (A Trip around the World with Friends), the raccoon is reading an exciting book about an adventurous journey that involves crossing an ocean. He decides that that’s something he would like to experience too. But he’s lacking some key travel equipment, which he plans to borrow from his four friends – badger, fox, bear and crow. All of them come up with a good reason why they should join him on the trip. Together they make it through some precarious situations and return home satisfied and happy. Waechter’s comic-like illustrations lend the individual scenes an especially warm atmosphere, and as always there are loads of little details to discover. A humorous picture book about freedom and the courage to try something new.


Juri Johansson / Barbara Hermanowski (Ill.): Von Krawattenmännchen, Vielfraßen und Faulpelzinnen. Ein Tag im Zoo
Berlin: Kraus Verlag 2023. 26 p.
ISBN: 978-3-9823493-3-6

Ole Könnecke: Buddeln, Baggern, Bauen. Kleine Geschichten von großen Maschinen
München: Hanser 2023, 32 p.
ISBN: 978-3-446-27722-9

Lorenz Pauli / Miriam Zedelius (Ill.): Entschuldigung
Zürich: Atlantis Verlag, 2023. 32 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7152-0862-6

Philip Waechter: Weltreise mit Freunden
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2023. 26 p.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75740-1

Linda Wolfsgruber: Ein Kleid für den Mond
Wien: Jungbrunnen, 2023, 32 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7026-5978-3