Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest

Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest
Ole Könnecke (translated by Shelley Tanaka)
Gecko Press

Dulcinea lives happily with her father in a house on the edge of a large forest. They have a cow for milk, chickens for eggs, and grow much of their own food. Assuredly this is the stuff of fairytales;:all the more so when we read slightly further on that in the forest is a castle, wherein dwells a witch; a singing witch who sometimes roams in the forest. I guess she has no worries about being attacked by the monsters said to lurk in the moat surrounding her residence.

Now on the day of Dulcinea’s birthday, the girl’s chosen breakfast is blueberry pancakes; but oh woe! neither father nor daughter has remembered to buy blueberries at the market. Off goes her father but not as the girl thinks, to the market; rather he enters the forest where the desired berries grow in abundance.


Therein however, an encounter with the witch results in him being turned into a tree.

Now generally speaking, young Dulcinea is an obedient child, but fuelled by determination, the desire to celebrate her birthday with the specified pancakes (and one assumes, a love for her father), accompanied by her ever-present goose, she too enters the forest to look for her pa. There she (as will readers) instantly recognises him on account of his moustache, cap and basket.

Then it’s down to her wits to save her father,

herself and her birthday. Each of these she does with aplomb, in best fairy tale fashion.

Brilliantly comedic, both verbally (‘the witch always found young children exhausting’ … ‘besides nothing bad could happen to you on your birthday, could it?’) and visually -superb linework with minimal colour – and the contrast between the expressions of child and witch. In combination, these elements make this a neo-fairytale that will delight both solo readers and readers aloud.

Seahorses Are Sold Out

Seahorses Are Sold Out
Katja Gehrmann and Constanze Spengler (translated by Shelley Tanaka)
Gecko Press

Mika is eager to go to the lake with her dad but he’s busy with his work telling her to go and play. However, quickly bored by playing alone she makes a deal with him: let me have a pet and I’ll let you work in peace. Her preoccupied Dad hands Mika his wallet and off she goes to the pet shop where she chooses a mouse. Not convinced that she should be making a purchase alone, the shop owner phones Mika’s Dad to check she’s allowed to buy the creature and Mika overhears Dad say, “Just sell the kid whatever, …”

Back home Mika has a fun time with her new acquisition but the following morning the mouse has gone missing. Dad suggests she go and seek help at the pet shop and while there Mika makes another purchase – a puppy. After all dogs have sensitive noses and can sniff out anything. The puppy does the job

but makes a mess in the bathroom. Off goes Mika again to the pet shop where she’s seen a seal – just the thing for solving the toilet problem and said seal can also act as a loo supervisor.

Several more trips to Pet Kingdom result in a penguin to teach the mouse how to swim in the bath,

a parrot to cheer up the penguin, grumpy on account of the TV being turned off, and a baby elephant to drown out the parrot’s squawking and chattering.

Totally oblivious to the menagerie his daughter has amassed,

Mika’s Dad finally completes his project and is ready for that promised lake visit. And the pets? They might enjoy it too …

This crazy concatenation caused by a bored but persistent child, her workaholic father and a pet-shop owner who knows when he’s on to a good thing, is presented in a sequence of hilarious double spreads by Katja Gehrmann, that lead towards a fun finale; and Mira’s delightfully droll first person narrative chronicling the events. Young listeners, pet lovers especially, will relish this.