GDR Children’s Book Illustrations

In diesem Artikel beschreibe ich, wie ich auf die Illustrationen in DDR-Kinderbüchern aufmerksam wurde und was mir an ihnen gefällt.*

Every now and then, I visit the KALeB Kleiderkammer, a charity shop in Dresden that not only offers children’s clothes against an almost symbolic fee, but also has a box of giveaway books. I used to go through them when my son was too young to handle books with care, so I’d get him some that were already well-read and later, when he’d have had his way with them, I tossed them into the Altpapier.

(Bubele has since become quite the little bibliophile, demanding every Saturday a „weekend book“ from a „treasure trove“ his Oma got him as a present: the „Bilderbuchschatz“ by renowned German weekly paper ZEIT, consisting of eight children’s book classics.)

But I have kept my habit to go through the freebie book box, as sometimes, one can discover veritable treasures of children’s book design, even though the books themselves may strike us as dated.

Case in point:

Willibald Winkler, Wir musizieren auf der Triola. Berlin: VEB Lied der Zeit, 1976.

Willibald Winkler, Wir musizieren auf der Triola. Berlin: VEB Lied der Zeit, 1976.

(Sorry for the bad picture; I had two children in tow and did not want to take the book with me, so I had to take a snapshot.)

It’s a song book for children and Young Pioneers (which is the reason why it might not be popular any more). I love how the colourful horizontal stripes and the dancing children work both on a literal level in transporting a sense of music and dance while at the same time evoking sheets of music. Sadly, I did not look up the graphic designer!

The faux-naïveté displayed here is also a design element I have become more interested in since the birth of my children, as it often makes for lovely nursery or toy design, so much so that I treated myself to a coffee table book (by uber-cool Berlin-based publishers Die Gestalten) titled Naïve: Modernism and Folklore in Contemporary Graphic Design, which is due to arrive in a few days. I am very much looking forward to leafing through its pages.

I would like to include a few more discoveries, but I am afraid I can’t find them at the moment (oh, the pleasures of a household with a newborn: nothing is ever in order and the little one conveniently gets all the blame). – I will post them when the opportunity arises.

*The idea of providing an abstract in German of my blog articles in English was suggested by reader pennarsson. Thanks!
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