Category: Children's Books

Sybille Hein
Rutti Berg, die Bäuerin, wär so gerne Königin
[Tina Turnip´s Tribulations]

Storybook

Review

Countless cautionary tales in world literature deal with over-reachers who come a cropper. They mostly have tragic endings – after all, as the saying has it, „don’t meddle with things you don’t understand!“

However, you do also keep encountering admonitory stories from all kinds of historical epochs with precisely the opposite thrust. They seem to issue a challenge to those who waver and quaver: stir yourselves! Go for it! It’s precisely youth movements who have over the years felt indebted to Erich Kästner’s slogan: „Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es!“ [„If you want something good, then do it yourself!“] And Sybille Hein’s little picture book quite clearly belongs to this second group of cautionary tales.

Tina Turnip dreams of a better life. She would love to be a queen rather than a farmer and to exchange her cow for a horse and the farmyard for a castle. And so she sets right about it. Everything seems to be going to plan when all of a sudden an ogre appears and gobbles up Tina along with her castle. Luckily, though, she’s saved by her faithful old friends and returns to the farm with her tail between her legs. But anyone who thinks she’s now cured for once and for all of her ambitious plans is seriously mistaken. She’s barely dropped off when she can be heard saying in her sleep: „I’d like to be an astronaut.“

Sybille Hein has illustrated countless picture-books and children’s books in her unique style in recent years – but this is the first time she has stepped forward as the author too. The rhyming text which drives forward the simple plot has a cheerful rhythm and lends itself perfectly to reading aloud. The sentences are short and funny, their melody and tempo reminiscent of Wilhelm Busch’s verses from „Max und Moritz“. But unlike Busch, whose endings are often drastically didactic, this story does have a happy ending!

The book is lavishly designed, with pages that are split into separate bits. This „Lift-the-Flap“ technique creates additional pauses and surprises – perfect when you’re reading it and looking at the pictures with a child. With her own particular illustrative technique of combining pictures and collage, even inserting numbers and little comments into the pictures, Sybille Hein fashions every page so that it’s individual and surprising. She uses simple methods to give her characters incredibly expressive faces – and this doesn’t just apply to the humans, but the animals and monsters too, who are of course also personalities in Hein’s artistic world.
Heike Friesel

By Heike Friesel, 19.01.2006

Translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby