Category: Children's Books

Hanne Chen
Marion Goedelt (Illustrator)

Der Mondkönig
[The moon king]

Storybook

Review

Swallows, the sea, a hooded crow, dandelion clocks, puddles and a garden gnome: the things that Susi and her homesick balloon Puck turn to in order to find their way to the moon are not exactly chatty by nature. And why the moon? Because it is the true home of all balloons, of course! – the only place where they are truly free and happy. But Susi and Puck don’t see this as any reason to go their separate ways, and set out on their joint endeavour to discover the way to the moon. When they ask how best to get there, they receive numerous answers no whit less diverse than the “authorities” they consult. The swallows advise them to wait until the moon climbs out of the sea, then swim like mad to the point on the horizon where it has appeared. But when they stand on the beach, the waves approach them only briefly and then quickly retreat again, so that the two friends are unable to enact their plan.

They continue their search, but neither the puddle nor the crow can give them the information they require. But the garden gnome – the self-proclaimed boss of the Christmas tree kindergarten – sends them to the “featherlight folk”, where they ultimately find themselves in the company of the wise King of the Dandelion Clocks. Having travelled so far, Susi and Puck are pretty disappointed when the King sends them back home with the promise that someone is waiting for them there. They disconsolately begin to retrace their steps – only to notice for the first time that wherever they go, the moon accompanies them! Susi is so cheered by this realisation that she lets her beloved balloon fly free at last as she no longer needs to fear that by doing so she will lose him completely.

This story of friendship, wisdom, longing and the ability to let go is recounted by Hanne Chen in a spirit of calm and quietude. In the imagination of children in particular the life that they perceive in the things around them often plays a major role, and it is thus particularly appealing that such diverse “advisers” are given the opportunity to voice such diverse ideas. The story’s imaginative use of language will encourage its child readers to think, and it may well be that parents, too, will pause for thought in the face of utterances such as that of the waves: “We’re rolling on until the very end of silence and back”. Anything and everything is possible here, and this will be a particular delight to children who themselves enjoy inventing stories!

Compared to many other, visually “loud” picture-books, Hanne Chen’s and Marion Goedelt’s book stands out by virtue of its sensitive and extremely beautiful presentation. The pictures are just as poetic as the text: they are never obtrusive, yet always bold enough to show things in unusual ways. To this end Marion Goedelt prefers pastel shades, and deploys a whole variety of different techniques. She combines collage with a transparent-seeming water-colour ground, then adds structure by means of pen-and-ink drawing and strong, emphatic splashes of colour.

In both its words and its pictures this book deliberately avoids the brash and the showy, and in so doing bravely embraces the poetical!
Heike Friesel

By Heike Friesel, 28.03.2005

Translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby