As promised two weeks ago, here’s my favourite picture books that I got to read as a child. Actually, I got most of them read to me. But I guess that’s quite normal. ;)
Looking back, it’s quite amazing that I actually didn’t read that many picture books. That might be partly due to the fact that my parents had to reread the books we loved quite a lot to us, but surely also partly responsible is my dad, who made up a lot of his own stories (and songs and poems) for us kids and we loved to hear them.
This list is quite Austria/German-centric. On the one hand, picture books rarely get translated (or so it seems) and on the other hand, we have some great Austrian children’s authors and my parents got a lot of books by them.
But you’re welcome to leave your own favourites in the comments.
10. Ali Mitgutsch – Round and Round in my Town
Round and Round in my Town does without any words. It’s just pictures by German designer/painter Ali Mitgutsch. There’s tons of stuff happening on each page and I could keep myself busy for hours at a time trying to take in all the details on each page. I never succeeded.
9. Vera Ferra-Mikura – Der alte und der junge und der kleine Stanislaus
Vera Ferra-Mikura was an Austrian children’s author with a long list of publications. But I loved “Der alte und der junge und der kleine Stanislaus” (translation: The old and the young and the little Stanislaus) most. It’s about three generations of Stanislaus’ [which is a name, in case you didn’t guess]. It’s illustrated by Romanian-born Romulus Candea.
8. Franz Karl Ginzkey – Florians wundersame Reise über die Tapete
Franz Karl Ginzkey is probably better known for Hatschi Bratschis Balloon, but honestly – you really can’t give this book to children anymore and still have a clear conscience. It’s pretty much the most racist book I’ve ever read. Can only be explained by it being more than a hundred years old. Anyways, “Florians wundersame Reise über die Tapete” (transl: Florian’s fantastic journey over the wallpaper) tellls – surprisingly – the story of Florian who gets inspired by his new wallpaper and goes on a journey. It’s illustrated by Rolf Rettich.
7. Richard Scarry – Busytown
First really international entry on this list. I guess everybody read those books… my favourite character was Lowly Worm. What was yours?
Oh, I guess that Max and Moritz are famous enough that I don’t need to explain them, do I? Well, in case that there are the uninitiated out there: Max and Moritz are two boys who play seven pranks on the people around them. As it is already in the public domain, you can read it here. This is one of the most important artefacts of German literary culture. And it’s delightfully evil and funny.
Black pedagogy at its best! This book is also in the public domain and you can read it here. It’s a book of ten stories warning kids in no uncertain terms about the dangers of misbehaving. You’ve got the boy who sucked his thumb until an evil man comes and cuts them off, you’ve got the girl playing with matches until she burns to death, another boy won’t eat his soup and therefore he starves… It’s no wonder, growing up with this, that I like horror movies…
Another one of those books hardly any child can grow up without in the Western world. The caterpillar eats its way through a lot of stuff and then turns into beautiful butterfly. And what an awesome occasion to link again to this.
I have yet to find another person who also read this book as a kid. [Not that I exhausted myself in the search, mind you.] But I really love it. It’s about a woman who loves to laugh and make rice dumplings. One day, one of her dumplings gets away from her and she chases it into a demon world, where she stays to cook for the demons with a magic paddle until she’s had enough. Then she flees. It’s illustrated by Blair Lent.
I would have thought everybody knows this book but since I had to take deadra to the bookstore a couple of months ago so she could read it for the first tim, here’s the short version: Max gets sent to his room without dinner so he dreams himself to an islands of monsters, where he’s the monster king. Man, I can’t wait for the movie. Here’s the trailer again, just to tide me over.
1. Mira Lobe – Das kleine Ich Bin Ich
Mira Lobe is an Austrian author and has written a plethora of children’s books, one better than the next. Like the Geggis, like Bimbuli, like Das Städtchen Drumherum. But my favourite is Das kleine Ich Bin Ich (transl: The little I Am Myself). It’s about this animal you see above which tries to find out what it is. It asks various animals whether they aren’t the same kind it is, but though it has something in common with all of them, it never really belongs. It continues like that for a while until it realises that it is just itself and that that’s a good thing. Wonderful story and wonderful illustrations by Susi Weigel, an Austrian illustrator and cartoon designer.