Category: Children's Books

Georg Bydlinski
Jens Rassmus (Illustrator)

Der Zapperdockel und der Wock
[The Zapperdockle and the Wock]

Storybook

Review

The zapperdockle is small, uncertain, and a cry-baby. But he can’t help it: that’s just the way he is. The wock is big, strong, and rude. But he can’t help it: that’s just the way he is. Can two characters like the zapperdockle and the wock ever learn to get along with one another? After a few misunderstandings…who knows?

At the end of this enchanting book, you are somehow reminded of the final scene of Casablanca: it’s ‘the beginning of a wonderful friendship’ – a friendship between two creatures who could scarcely be more different from one another.

Georg Bydlinski tells the story of how these two come to be friends concisely yet with the utmost imagination. His creativity with words, which resonates in the very names of these fabulous creatures, is just as surprising as it is convincing, and the comparison between life and a triple-layered cream cake or a tie with green spots may be somewhat unusual – but that is what makes it really apposite, and ultimately makes even the unhappy Zapperdockle smile again. Bydlinski’s choice of words is refreshing, precisely because he uses words that you don’t come across every day; words that stimulate children’s imaginations and, while they’re at it, broaden their vocabularies. Moreover, as our sample English translation demonstrates, the creative words and rhymes alike translate readily into other languages without losing any of their sparkle. German readers, for their part, will find that the book’s Austrian idioms contribute greatly to its charm.

An equal contribution to this charm is made by Jens Rassmus’ exquisite illustrations. Rassmus uses a variety of painting and drawing techniques: the two protagonists stand out against a background of watercolours and black pen-and-ink drawing, the Zapperdockle depicted in bright yellow, and the Wock in deep blue. By using different artistic techniques, Rassmus manages to create two pictorial ‘levels’, and can thus make the actual foreground plot stand out from the background scenery. A whole multitude of tiny, witty details are hidden in these landscapes, and make it a real pleasure to read the book together with someone else.

The Zapperdockle and the Wock stands in a picture book tradition which not only sets great store by the artwork but also appeals to children’s responsiveness to humour, jokes and word play. Books such as this play an important role in broadening children’s horizons rather than just cementing fixed images of the world into their minds using the same old loud, bright primary colours.
Heike Friesel

By Heike Friesel, 27.08.2004

Translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby