How does Salah save us from evil

Super worm

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | Discussion from 09/22/2012When snails drag

"Superwurm" is the latest work by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson. It tells of a hero who needs help and shows what grace can be hidden in a dump.

When books appear annually at the same time in the same publisher, which come from the same author and the same illustrator and mostly focus on animals, then this gives the first reception two directions: one concentrates either on the common or on the new.

In the case of the picture books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, which are reliably published in German every autumn by Beltz & Gelberg, this means, for example, that some readers look for the Gruffalo the first time they leaf through before they get involved in the story. In recent years, the forest creature that Scheffler and Donaldson has enjoyed worldwide since its debut in 1999 has not only appeared in television adaptations, coloring books or as a cuddly toy, but also as a hidden quote in their books that have been created since then: In "Flunkerfisch" ( 2007) the gruffalo adorned the underwater world, in "The Snail and the Humpback Whale" (2003) a student draws his face in the sand, and in the most recently published "Räuber Ratte", gruffalo biscuits are eaten.

"Superworm" has been in bookstores for a few days now, and if you are looking for the Gruffalo in it, you will find it in the junkyard, where it has been disposed of between herringbones and remains of packaging, and it is quite possible that it will come to an end from now on with the references. Of course, anyone who approaches the junkyard and the entire book as freely as possible will find a work that stands out from the picture book production of this autumn, precisely because it treats the junkyard with the same attention to detail as the other locations. The ensemble of cans, bottles and cardboard boxes, painted in the finest detail, takes on a dignity of its own, it shines as silvery as the ribs of the garbage truck that drives away in the background, and because Scheffler is nothing too insignificant to transform itself happily his pictures are completely free of disappointment even when viewed with critical children for a long time. And full of discoveries.

Take the snails, for example: how Scheffler gives them a lively physiognomy in this book is as surprising as it is compelling. It is believed that this is exactly what snails should look like when they are transporting heavy loads (in this case that means dragging a honeycomb together on their houses), when they are cautiously smirking or eagerly listening to a grumble beneath the surface of the earth.

It is part of the nature of such a picture book that, in view of such a wealth of nuances, history cannot and may not necessarily have to keep up. Julia Donaldson's no-frills song about the "Räuber Ratte" puts a title hero on stage who has greatness in his coherent malice and who, resistant to advice right down to the last page, effortlessly stands alongside the gorgeous images.

Unfortunately, things are different with "Superworm". The worm spends its days in selfless service for others, it saves toad children and beetles, plays with bored bees, and when it is in danger, the grateful small animals team up and free it from the clutches of the evil lizard that kidnapped him. Even a superhero needs help from time to time, that's how you translate it, or also: Good deeds pay off at some point. In Salah Naoura's translation, the grateful chorus of the meadow dwellers sounds like this: "This worm with superpower / is a hero who can do anything. / Superworm, the superhero, / is the greatest worm in the world." And so on.

The simpler the story, the more pleasing is the richness of the images. And whoever appreciates the beetles wriggling with joy at the return of the superworm or the wildly balancing ant in the ensemble of the final picture will quickly make peace with this book. And waits for the next autumn.


Axel Scheffler, Julia Donaldson: "Superworm".

Translated from the English by Salah Naoura. Beltz & Gelberg Verlag, Weinheim 2012. 32 pp., Hardcover, 12.95 [euros]. From 4 years

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