Category: Children's Books

Sabine Ludwig
Isabel Kreitz (Illustrator)

Die Tür bleibt zu!
[The Door Stays Shut!]

Storybook

The super-kind magic cupboard. "The Door Stays Shut!" - An ingenious picture book by Sabine Ludwig and Isabel Kreitz

Why, at his very first glimpse of a particular magical object in this picture book, is your reviewer instantly reminded of the clothes cupboard that figured in his earliest childhood?

The deep dark reddish-brown patterning of the grain on the door of the cupboard seemed distinctly threatening, as if it might somehow pull me into some unknown and frightening realm. Whenever as a little nipper of four or five I couldn’t get off to sleep, I would turn my bedside light on and gaze at the magic shapes and swirls until they swallowed me up and then spat me out again in the world of my dreams. My mother would find me in a state of apparently peaceful slumber, and turn my light out.

And now, a few decades later, I encounter little Oskar in this picture book by Sabine Ludwig and Isabel Kreitz. Oskar is a kitten with whom the very young - and those who have remained young in spirit - can immediately identify. A touch cuddly; a touch wild; a touch rebellious; a touch dreamy; a touch stubborn. Exhibiting a sure eye for essentials, the comic-book artist Isabel Kreitz has depicted Oskar and all the physical appurtenances of the story in a manner at once bright, cheerful and variegated. There is never a sense of anything being overloaded with colour or ‘atmosphere’. And in the appropriate white spaces between the illustrations we find the short, concise sentences of the author, Sabine Ludwig. ‘Whenever Mum and Dad have visitors in the evening Oskar has to go to bed...’. It rings some kind of bell in our own head to hear that a thousand things then promptly occur to Oskar that might add further to his well-being. A mere glass of water on his bedside table? How ignorant his parents must be! Where’s the cocoa?! Where’s the cake?! Bring them now, if you please ! - But if the grown-ups out there respond to all the pacing around and the grumbling and grousing by simply calling out ‘Your door stays shut!’ - what then?!

It is at this point that we begin to appreciate the huge disparity between what the now very much older ‘cat’ experienced when little, and the experiences of today’s young kittens. As children we of the older generation stared anxiously at the mysterious patterns on the doors of our bedroom cupboards, but today’s ‘kittens’ - today’s young children, in other words - are very much more courageous. Oskar’s purple cupboard door is emblazoned with a giant-sized octopus, but it doesn’t cause him the least anxiety. It thus seems quite natural to our Cheerful Charlie of a kitten when, following his string of demands (‘Cocoa!’, ‘Cake!’, ‘Clean the place up!’, ‘Music!’), the octopus door bursts open to disgorge a bevy of minions who fulfil each of his wishes in turn (minions, four in all, who bear a striking resemblance to his parents’ guests). Once Oskar and his cuddly monsters have eaten their fill, the domestic angel has hoovered up the cake crumbs, and the nostalgic final strains of the banjo player and his backing singers have died away in the cupboard, Oskar will fall contentedly asleep. Where? - this is not vouchsafed to us.

However sympathetic any adults looking at this adorable and ingenious picture book might feel towards all those mums and dads the world over who, like the mum and dad here, would like to enjoy a pleasant evening with friends completely free of parental responsibilities at long last, they are nonetheless likely to be unreservedly on the side of the child - the Oskar within the story, and their own inner Oskar, hankering as ever for just such a super-kind magic cupboard.
Siggi Seuß

By Siggi Seuß, 26.10.2018

​Siggi Seuß, freelance journalist, radio script writer and translator, has been writing reviews of books for children and young people for many years.

Translated by John Reddick