It’s been a little over five years since I started this blog, and rather fittingly, I am reviewing a book by the illustrator who inaugurated this space – Sebastian Meschenmoser, a German artist with an unusual flare for drawing squirrels. That original review of Waiting for Winter introduced readers of this blog – which I understand has grown beyond a few (reluctant) members of my family – to my deeply held belief that books have a way of finding us, of making their presence known.
Waiting For Winter found me in a bookstore on a chilly day in December 2009, and now, in yet another example of metaphysical tomfoolery, the newest (translated) book by Meschenmoser, Mr Squirrel and the Moon, comes to this blog by way of a Berlin-based friend (and resident book temptress) whose FB posts regularly feature beautifully illustrated picture books such as the aforementioned Mr Squirrel and the Moon.
And Mr Squirrel and the Moon is indeed, beautiful: swirling multitudes of colour pencil strokes effortlessly merged into wispy shapes of foliage and, ever so sweetly, the forest creatures who populate Meschenmoser’s story. Once again, a squirrel (perhaps the squirrel from Waiting for Winter) sets the ball rolling, and it is a literal ball – a moon – which has abruptly landed on the squirrel’s tree. As the readers know, it is not the moon but a wheel of cheese that has fallen off a boy’s wagon and rolled over a cliff. The squirrel, unaware of this fact, makes two incorrect assumptions: one, that the cheese is a moon, and two, that someone will think he stole it. Either way, the big yellow orb is a nuisance, inspiring a series of amusing illustrations of the squirrel’s herculean efforts to rid himself of the moon – efforts which soon involve his friends – a hedgehog and a billy goat. Particularly funny are the black and white, double-page spreads of the squirrel and his buddies imagining themselves in jail, where their human cellmate is always shown working on a needlepoint project. There is even a tiny mouse toilet in the room! The intrepid crew eventually resolve their issue in an inventive…and delicious way, shooting the moon, or what’s left of it, back up into the sky where it belongs.
In Mr Squirrel and the Moon, Meschenmoser’s words and illustrations work in perfect harmony, radiating layers of charm, warmth, and humour in every flight of fanciful thinking and stroke of the pencil. There is a breeziness to the drawings, as if the pages might have been torn from an Impressionist’s sketchbook, but the illustrations are deeper than this, more nuanced. Meschenmoser imbues every line with meaning, conveying the beautiful, comic possibilities of each scene with minimal detail. And yet, even in their simplicity, the squirrel and all his mates are realistically depicted, although with a delightful expressiveness perhaps not quite reflective of the animal kingdom. It is a difficult thing to do – what to leave in, what to leave out, but Meschenmoser strikes the right balance, creating a picture book that is both entertaining and strikingly beautiful. Mr Squirrel and the Moon is a book to love, and like Waiting For Winter, I’m so grateful it found me.
Sebastian Meschenmoser was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1980. He studied fine arts in Mainz, Germany, where he no doubt came into contact with the ear-tufted red squirrel or squirrels who served as models for his books. Meschenmoser is among Germany’s most successful and admired young illustrators for children (and at least one very enthusiastic adult). Although he has written many children’s books, including sequels to Waiting For Winter, very few have been translated into English. Get on it, people!
MR. SQUIRREL AND THE MOON by Sebastian Meschenmoser. Published by NorthSouth Books, 2015 (original German publication, 2006)
Waiting For Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser (review HERE)