Books by Käthi Bhend

Released: Nov. 1, 2010

Once there was a poor child who had no father or mother—they, like everyone in the world, had died. In search of heaven, the lonely boy traverses the cosmos, but all that symbolizes hope and possibility is found worthless and what seemed bright and beautiful reeks of despair. The Earth is an empty vessel, and the moon, sun and stars become metaphors for the desolation and disease of the universe. Based on a story found in Georg Büchner's play Woyzeck, Amann's bleak adaptation offers a conversation piece for sophisticated readers. Bhend's lyrical artwork, done in colored pencil and mixed media, with its soft colors and texture, is a welcome contrast to the blackness of space and story. While her style seems simple, her cerebral images aptly represent the child's complex, metaphysical journey and are appropriately ripe with symbols. It is she who leaves readers with the idea that peace and comfort may be possible; the barren, dark realm evoked by the words demands this mercy. This may be a good companion for those studying Büchner, but it's sure not for the usual picture-book audience. (Picture book. 12 & up)Read full book review >
IN MY DREAMS I CAN FLY by Eveline Hasler
Released: Nov. 1, 2009

A simple story spreads like frosting over weighty themes. It's a classic architecture, which allows for slicing as deep as readers can handle, and Hasler works it straightforwardly. On the surface, she presents five friends living underground for the winter months. Two worms, a grub, a caterpillar and a beetle show each other their digs and their supplies. They entertain each other; they witness strange happenings that create suspense and one of them behaves selfishly, which will come back to bite him, but all is patted smooth when Spring reveals her secrets. Peel back the layers and readers will find issues of survival, change and communal responsibility, as well as the importance of dreams, especially when they may be intuitions of the future. The prose keeps a steady beat to the story's voice—"Every third evening, the friends played cards together in the grub's home among the roots"—letting readers invest them with emotion, and Bhend's jewel-like artwork treads the line between cozy and precarious. If no new ground has been broken, it has certainly been turned with discernment. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS by Eveline Hasler
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

In this version of a common (though here unacknowledged) folktale type, two hunchbacked brothers get their just deserts. After his kindness to woodland creatures and spirits, Morris returns from an errand into the autumn mountains without a hump. His ill-natured brother Boris eagerly sets out with the same expectations. Noting that "what goes around, comes around," Hasler rewards Boris's careless, rude, destructive behavior not with a straight back, but with a second hump—whereupon Boris recognizes the error of his ways, and resolves to make amends in the spring. Alternating color spreads with black and white, Bhend creates complex, wonderfully animistic landscapes, filled with both accurately rendered natural details, and hidden faces and forms woven into the underbrush. Though Boris's remorse makes the lesson unnecessarily explicit, the pictures add a properly mysterious air to an otherwise well-told rendition. Shelve it next to Charlotte Huck's Toads and Diamonds (1996), illustrated by Anita Lobel, and Robert San Souci's Talking Eggs (1989), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE DUCK AND THE OWL by Hanna Johansen
Released: Nov. 30, 2005

Two birds residing in the same meadow take a rather neurotic stab at friendship in this Swiss import. In a text heavy with dialogue and a bit choppy in translation, a duck and an owl bicker—about the best time of day to sleep, what to eat, who starts the arguments and more. There are brief truces and even the occasional compliment, but this duo can't seem to resist taking potshots at each other's lifestyle, even as they learn the details for the first time. The nattering pairs a bit oddly with Bhend's lovely, meticulously rendered naturalistic ink drawings. The text suggests squawky, feather-flying movement, but Bhend answers with quiet, minutely detailed compositions. Indeed, the illustrations so teem with interesting details (a snake's body bulging with its latest meal, a seven-legged spider, the tiny bones at the base of the owl's tree), that observant children might prefer poring over the book to hearing it read aloud. There's a resolution of sorts—"See you again soon," says the owl, dozing into his much-needed day's sleep—but one doesn't hold out much hope for the relationship. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2003

Henrietta is one of 3,333 chickens crowded together in a chicken house on a chicken farm in a space with just enough room for their feet; she is the only little one and the only one without a cough or loss of feathers. Every day the manager counts up the eggs they've laid. Henrietta announces she is going to lay golden eggs when she's big, but first she's going to learn to sing; of course, the other hens laugh at her. When she pecks a hole in the corner of the house, making it big enough for her to walk through, she sees green things for the first time. Soon the hole is big enough for all the chickens to escape and the manager has to round them up. Next Henrietta tackles learning to swim, then learning to fly and each time all of the chickens get loose. When the workers can't round them all up, they build a great big chicken yard in the open and everyone is happier. The crisp black-and-white, pen-and-ink drawings are bordered on the square pages with images flying outside the edges. A brown chicken runs across the top of the pages accenting the page numbers. (The colorful cover and endpapers will lead readers to expect color illustrations.) The length and squarish size could make placement difficult as it looks like a chapter book—but the audience is really younger. The moral may be a stretch as the stylized art puts a sophisticated edge on this barnyard fable originally published in Germany. Kids may simply like Henrietta's determination and cockiness when her first egg turns out to be brown and they're sure to enjoy the escapes. Better for one-on-one reading to give the pictures (and chickens) their due. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
A TOMCAT'S TALE by Hanna Johansen
by Hanna Johansen, translated by Susanna Fox, illustrated by Käthi Bhend
Released: April 1, 1991

From the point of view of a cat who'd be pampered if he allowed it, an incisive look at what being a cat is like: communicating with obtuse humans; establishing territory; contriving to get out, and in; philosophically hunkering down in a new neighborhood while temporarily lost; catching mice; getting hauled off to the vet (once, after the AWOL incident, for the purpose of being neutered); making a tentative friendship with another cat. Felix tells his own story in a voice that cat-lovers are sure to find believable: unsentimental, independent, self- centered, confident. It's the voice that makes the events amusing—they don't add up to much of a plot. Best of all are the enchanting drawings. Felix and his friends are depicted in every imaginable activity, the cats' graceful (or baleful or comical) stances and expressions rendered in exquisite, loving detail. There are frequent double spreads plus lots more drawings, including tiny cats perched on, or peaking from under, the delicate page-top line. Cat-lovers' heaven; a perfect family readaloud. (Fiction. 6+) Read full book review >