Wenn Tiere gemeinsame Sache machen
If you help me, I’ll help you.
Wenn Tiere gemeinsame Sache machen is based on her college thesis for her studies in the illustration department of the renowned Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). The budding artist got reinforcement for the text from Volker Mehnert, an experienced journalist. The illustrations and text also form a successful symbiosis in this non-fiction picture book. Not only does it treat a fascinating and surprisingly rare subject in German-language children’s non-fiction, but it also has a very unusual format.
A lot of information awaits readers on six foldout pages on thin paper. Lena Schaffer commented, "I wanted to make it look very different from classic non-fiction books, in order to surprise readers. The foldout pages invite readers to be amazed and to explore, introducing them to a classical subject of biology in a playful manner." The formal structure of the pages is always the same and involves two levels.
First is a busy scene of the habitat in a landscape format with pictures of the respective animals and plants. The lower half of each page is divided into several segments. An entertaining and understandable, reader-friendly text explains each symbiotic relationship, with the illustrations focusing on the animal teams. At the lower right there is a world map indicating the geographical region under consideration, in which the environment of the presented animals is marked. Each page is rounded off with a legend listing more than forty animals. When the lower page is folded out, the corresponding busy scene can be viewed in full size. Thanks to the numbering, readers can match up the pictures with the colorful animal names, thereby discovering a lot of new animals and plants.
The animals are drawn in a stylized, reduced manner, and the coloring is not always realistic. Lena Schaffer first draws the lines with pencil, then elaborating the drawing with a fineliner or black felt-tip pen. Coloration and possible corrections, as well as the finishing touches, are done on the computer. According to the artist, "When creating the animal drawings I get inspired mostly from animal drawings in old biology books, color lithography prints of animals and plants, and documentary films. My goal is to create a balance between informative and fictional illustration."
The conclusions regarding the phenomenon of animal symbiosis that can be drawn together with the children are wonderful. As human beings, we too can usually progress better with others than alone, thus following the example of these great natural collaborations.
By Antje Ehmann, 25.10.2017
Antje Ehmann is a freelance journalist. Specialising in books for children and young adults, she writes for various publications including ‘Neue Zürcher Zeitung’, ‘BuchMarkt’, ‘BÜCHER-MAGAZIN’, ‘dpa-Kindernachrichten’ and ‘mare’. From 2011 to 2014 she was a member of the Critics’ Jury for the German Youth Literature Prize (Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis), and in 2016 she became a member of the jury for the Illustration Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature (Illustrationspreis für Kinder- und Jugendliteratur) offered by the Gemeinschaftswerk der evangelischen Publizistik.
In the animal kingdom, there are all sorts of bewildering things to discover. Especially astounding are the strange mutual relationships that this nonfiction picture book portrays on its large, horizontal fold-out pages: six animal symbioses that will surprise young and old readers alike. Who knew, for example, that "cleaner fish" on the ocean floor polish the skin of larger species until it sparkles, or that the water dikkop warns the crocodile mother about egg thieves with its distinctive alarm whistle, or that the sea anemone helps protect the clownfish from predators? Children not only get to know these twelve remarkable animals and their living environments - they also learn about the advantages of clever cooperation!
(Text: Gerstenberg Verlag)