Friday 5 August 2016

Bravo! by Philip Waechter and Moni Port

Bravo! by Philip Waechter and Moni Port, translated by Sally-Ann Spencer (Gecko Press, 2011; original title Der Krakeeler)

32 pages with colour illustrations

Subjects:  anger management, anti-war books, peace, animals, fable, picture books (Year 3-6)

I wouldn’t have thought to review this book, if not for finding it on Raymond Huber’s excellent list of Anti-war books for children.

It tells the story of Helena, “a little girl” who “lived in a crooked house, deep in a valley, beside a turquoise stream”. (I love the hint of fairytale in the word “crooked”, and the exactness of “turquoise”.)

Helena’s life is almost perfect, apart from her loud shouting father, and the book follows the decisions she makes, and the outcome of those decisions.  (As Raymond says, “Children have to find peace within themselves before they can change the world".)

Raymond also provides teaching notes – on words, characters, story structure and illustrations - here.

Publishers Weekly calls it a “spare, delicately drawn offering” in which “Helena’s decisive act allows her to find her own voice and to mend her relationship with her father, too.” 

Curled up with a good kid's book says it "delivers a thought provoking message about positive behaviour and making socially acceptable and positive choices". 

Raymond Huber poses some excellent questions in his teaching notes:
  • What does Helena think of her father? 
  • Is she scared of him? 
  • Is it his loudness she hates or something else? (Remember she plays the trumpet).

About the author and illustrator
This book was originally published as Der Krakeeler, which means “rowdy type”, “brawler” or “roisterer”. It’s interesting that the translator and publishers (the wonderful Gecko Press) have chosen a different sort of title for the English version, focusing more on Helena and her actions than on her father.
It’s also interesting that the cover gives both names equal weight, with no clues as to which is the author and which the illustrator. A bit of sleuthing reveals that it is written by Moni Port and illustrated by Philip Waechter (so the names on the cover are in the opposite order to how you would usually find them displayed on a NZ picture book). 
According to Gecko Press, Moni Port was born in 1968 in Germany. She has worked as a bookseller, then studied communication design, focussing on illustration and book design. 
Philip Waechter was born in 1968 in Germany. He now lives as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator in Frankfurt am Main. In 1999, Philip and Moni co-founded the community studio LABOR. You can read more about Philip here.

Other books you might like:
Other anti-war books for children include The story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and The general by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman.

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