New Picture Books Fantastical Worlds

In new picture books, the little ones can immerse themselves in the circus and dream worlds, but also experience how important friendship and loyalty are.

By Holger Moos

Böge / Lichtsinn: Applaus! © Aladin In his current work Applaus! Dieter Böge takes a “look behind the scenes of a fantastical circus.” The acrobats, all special animals, appear one by one in the circus and demonstrate their incredible feats, be it a juggling rabbit, a high-wire bull, aerial acrobat mice or a wondrous multilingual cat. The illustrations by Verena Lichtsinn are captivatingly perfect. Consequently, Lichtsinn was nominated this year for the Serafina award for young illustrators of German-language children’s and youth literature. According to the nomination, “Verena Lichtsinn combines etchings with a woodcut-like surface structure, creates atmospheric worlds before, during and after a stage performance with consistent light-dark contrasts and accentuated colour fields: soberly observant tableaux with a slightly retro look.”

Dreaming knights

Danowski: Nachts im Traum © Bohem Nachts im Traum (In Dreams at Night) is the title of Sonja Danowski’s latest picture book. In it, she offers very different approaches to the world of dreams. You see what happens to children who first lie quietly in bed and then, on the next page, pursue their wishes and hopes and have adventures in their dreams. The story is told in haikus, with stunning watercolours, painted in ink, pencil and sepia-coloured crayons. The book was selected for Deutschlandfunk’s Die besten 7 (seven best) list in October 2022: “Realism and fantasy interweave artfully and touchingly. An alien world in midnight blue and warm muted colours.”

Wiesmüller: Wenn Ritter träumen © Atlantis In his typical picture technique with acrylic in glaze and also with ink, Dieter Wiesmüller tells a funny children’s gang story in Wenn Ritter träumen (When Knights Dream). There are boys who dream of the knight’s life and fight against a group during the day, there are girls who want to play along. But when they defend their castle, a wild gang suddenly arrives, costumed like Sendak’s Wild Things. The exciting question is: Who’ll win the battle?

A diva in the woods

Schneider / Stangl: Der Junge, der Ball und die Mauer © Hanser In Der Junge, der Ball und die Mauer (The Boy, the Ball and the Wall), Noemi Schneider tells a story about fears, boundaries, prejudices and overcoming them. The story, told in just a few sentences, of how a boy overcomes a wall with his ball and finds a friend on the other side, is supported well by Katrin Stangl’s pictures with their strong black contours.

Baltscheit / Jung: Diva allein im Wald © Beltz & Gelberg Diva the dog loves life in the city, complete with chocolates, pasta and pies. One day, fate shoos her off her cuddly cushion and into adventure! In the forest, the lady-like dog with her airs and graces learns what a dog really needs in life: helpful friends. Diva allein im Wald (Diva Alone in the Woods) by Martin Baltscheit is a witty play on the advantages of the upper class, until Diva realises that the only thing that will help her is to remember her true animal nature. Barbara Jung’s spirited illustrations enhance the story’s comedy with relish.

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Martin Baltscheit / Barbara Jung (Ill.): Diva allein im Wald
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2022. 40 p.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75673-2

Dieter Böge / Verena Lichtsinn (Ill.): Applaus! Blick hinter die Kulissen eines fantastischen Zirkus
Stuttgart: Aladin, 2022. 42 p.
ISBN: 978-3-8489-0214-9

Sonja Danowski: Nachts im Traum
Münster: Bohem, 2022. 64 p.
ISBN: 978-3-95939-210-5

Noemi Schneider / Katrin Stangl (Ill.): Der Junge, der Ball und die Mauer
München: Hanser, 2022. 30 p.
ISBN: 978-3-446-27433-4

Dieter Wiesmüller: Wenn Ritter träumen
Zürich: Atlantis 2022. 28 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7152-0851-0