Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits
Annette Roeder and Olaf Hajek
Prestel

A veritable array of scrumptious fruits – depending on your taste of course – are served up in this third collaboration between author Annette Roeder and illustrator Olaf Hajek.

As with Veggie Power and Flower Power, Hajek draws on a variety of cultural heritages and artistic traditions, as he playfully conjures up an entire, imagination-sparking story world brimming with details in every one of his seventeen luscious surreal paintings.

For instance the style of the richly hued mango scene transported me to India and Mughal art, but Hajek’s arrangement of images with the dominant parrot clutching in its claws a neatly cut slice of the juicy fruit raised the question, ‘Was it sliced by human hands and if so, whose?’

In contrast the gooseberry and currant composition, had for me, something of the Mexican, Frida Khalo about it.

As well as providing visual clues as to how each fruit is grown, in some paintings, the featured fruit or the skin thereof, is used as part and parcel of a character’s attire. That is so with the gooseberries while in the case of banana, there’s a woman’s dress and hat comprised mostly of that fruit.

No matter where you open the book, opposite the illustration is an engaging page of text by Annette Roeder. This provides straightforward factual information drawn from history as well as modern times; there’s often some folklore, or perhaps a truncated myth or traditional fairytale. The final spread entitled ‘A colourful fruit salad fairy tale’ has a story so the author says, whispered to her by a woman in a shop about a spoiled prince and pineapples that grow wings so he can consume them at their perfect stage of ripeness; and there’s information about choosing wisely when it comes to selecting what to include in your own fruit salad.

Assuredly this large format book is full of mouth-watering delights and occasional surprises too.

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