Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? This quirky animal story originally appeared in Germany and has a very dry but humorous sensibility. It’s springtime and all the animals feel frisky, except for Hedgehog whom we meet as he stares forlornly across a pond. His friend Mr. Squirrel diagnoses romantic troubles and recommends daring deeds to impress and woo his lady love. Squirrel imagines himself as Don Quixote with the hog as Sancho Panza and creates a truly marvelous series of costumes out of forest odds and ends. They search for an enemy to vanquish and some goofy mayhem results. In a surprise ending, Hedgehog’s love interest turns out to be an abandoned hairbrush. The plot serves as an excuse for Meschenmoser to flaunt his truly astonishing artistic skills. The oversized book features intricate, dense and colorful pencil drawings surrounded by plenty of white space. He zooms in for closeups of Bear’s fur or the boulders along a river’s edge and then back out to see visual gags unfolding. The animals look incredibly real, even though they talk and occasionally wear laughable outfits made out of natural fibers. Charming end papers featuring a young child and dad and tell a separate droll tale.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The translation felt a bit stiff. The duck in the final illustration resembles a pointy-beaked raptor, so I guess Meschenmoser forte is mammals. I did wonder how familiar the target age group would be with Cervantes…
To whom would you recommend this book? Although the intricacy of the illustrations will reward close viewing, this would work as a read aloud for children aged 4-6. Consider adding it to your spring book line-up.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: April 1, 2021