Waiting for Wolf

Waiting for Wolf
Sandra Dieckmann
Hodder Children’s

Have a box of tissues at the ready when you read this new Sandra Dieckmann picture book.

Good friends Fox and Wolf pass their time happily by the lake, talking, laughing and sometimes taking a dip.

One day as they sit together, Wolf entreats his friend “promise you’ll always remember this perfect day.”

As night falls, Wolf tenderly embraces Fox telling him quietly, “Tomorrow I will be starlight.” Content, but unsure what he means, Fox lets it be.

The following morning she goes out in the hope of finding her friend sparkling like a star but of Wolf there is no sign.

That evening Fox goes to their favourite lakeside place, still waiting and hoping to see Wolf. Could he be up in the sky, wonders Fox as she gazes at the twinkling stars.

She decides to climb up the mountain towards the brightest star in the firmament and on reaching the top calls out her friend’s name but all around is silence.

Reaching up Fox takes hold of the blanket of stars and enfolds herself within. Once more, in a soft whisper now, she asks, “Wolf are you there?”

Now deep inside knowing that her friend has gone, she lets her tears flow;

but then she sees something amazing in the darkness and she recalls Wolf’s words on their final day together. Back comes a stream of happy memories and as Fox replaces the star blanket, a feeling of peace takes its place, and with it an understanding of her friend’s talk of starlight.

Sandra Diekmann’s deeply affecting story of love and loss is stunningly illustrated. With exquisite details of the flora and fauna, every spread is breath-takingly beautiful. The sight of Fox enveloping herself in the starry blanket left me with a lump in my throat; her sense of loss is truly palpable.

What better book than this to open discussion about bereavement and coming to terms with it?

The Dog that Ate the World

The Dog that Ate the World
Sandra Dieckmann
Flying Eye Books

Down in the valley the various animals live alongside each other peaceably, birds with birds, bears fishing with bears and fox playing his fiddle to other foxes.

Then, one fateful day across the pastures comes an unwanted canine intruder, large and greedy. He helps himself to whatever he wants in the way of food and drink, growing ever larger.
In an attempt to assuage the hunger of the beastly dog, the fox with his fiddle approaches him and plays a song.

He’s rewarded for his efforts by being consumed by the dog, but despite this the fox continues playing his song from within.

It’s heard without by a trio of brave bunnies that resolve to rescue the fox,

but they too end up inside the dog.

Peace-makers attempt to talk, trick and tire the beast, all to no avail; the dog swallows the lot.
Trapped within, the animals light a fire, talk and work, until eventually as life continues to flourish, so too does hope.

Nonetheless the gluttonous and now prodigious, dog continues stuffing himself until finally, down too, goes the sun and the entire sky. The beast has eaten his entire world.

And what of the other animals? Let’s just say that brightness surrounds them. In their world, there’s no place for such an animal as that voracious dog and all is peace, harmony and togetherness.

The forest animals in Sandra Dieckmann’s second picture book demonstrate so well to us humans, the importance of friendship and community when disaster strikes. Her striking colour palette, mixed-media, richly detailed scenes of flora and fauna, and slightly mystical landscapes draw one in and hold you while you ponder both composition and meaning.

Surely an allegory of our times and one that is open to many interpretations. However one sees that all consuming metaphorical dog, be it as consumerism, capitalism, or evil itself, this book is sure to engender discussion no matter the age of the audience.

Leaf

Leaf
Sandra Dieckmann
Flying Eye Books
Sandra Dieckmann’s love of the natural world shines right out at you from the arresting cover of her debut picture book.
It opens with a ‘strange white creature’ on an ice floe drifting shoreward upon dark and brooding waters, watched by a large black crow. Once ashore, the polar bear makes its home in a deserted hillside cave: an outsider watched and distrusted by the forest animals. It forages for leaves, watchful, wary; and the residents bestow upon it the name Leaf on account of its strange behaviour, but equally because they want rid of him. They all talk about Leaf but none dares talk to him.

And so it goes on until one day leaf- clad, the bear charges through the forest astonishing all that see, and launches himself, from the hillside and plunges into the lake below.
While the soaking creature hides once more in his cave, the other animals meet to discuss what to do. Conflicting opinions emerge, (only the crows speak for him) with the result that they do nothing.
Leaf meanwhile renews his determination to take flight, this time from a cliff …

and once he’s safely back on shore, the crows – intelligent beings that they are – finally allow him to speak. And speak he does – to them all – about melting ice and his desire to return to his family.
As conveyors of mood and movement, Sandra Dieckmann’s illustrations are impressive.

Executed in black, white, greys, blues and teals with occasional stand out splashes of red, orange, rust, yellow and the greens of the patterned leaves and flowering plants, the landscape portrayed is at once beautiful and at times, hostile.
It’s said in folklore that crows are harbingers of change: I’d like to think that those in Leaf’s story might act as symbols of a positive change in the way outsiders are viewed by too many of us. With themes that include global warming, outsiders, prejudice, loneliness and reaching out to others, this poignantly beautiful book is both topical and timely.

I’ve signed the charter