I received The House of Happy Spirits: A Children’s Book Inspired by Hundertwasser for this review/feature. Opinions expressed are my own.
The House of Happy Spirits: A Children’s Book Inspired by Hundertwasser by Geraldine Elschner and illustrated by Lucie Vandevelde (ISBN: 9783791374543; Hardcover $14.95; Ages 4+) is filled with color-saturated illustrations that echo Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser‘s bold style, introducing young readers to the idea of environmentally conscious and playful architecture.
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In this fairy tale-like story a beloved tree is saved and children learn how architecture can co-exist with nature.
The Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser believed that humanity and nature shared a harmonious partnership, a philosophy that he demonstrated with his architectural creations. Filled with color-saturated illustrations that echo Hundertwasser’s bold style, this story introduces young readers to the idea of environmentally conscious and playful architecture. When construction starts on a new building in Lea’s neighborhood, she fears that her favorite tree will be chopped down. For days she watches anxiously as the tree is covered up and surrounded by bricks. Finally, she learns that the tree has been spared and made the centerpiece of a fantastic new building, where it will live a long and healthy life. Lucie Vandevelde’s joyful drawings convey a kid’s-eye view of city life, complete with people, pets, automobiles, and machinery. As the new building emerges, readers will come to learn about some of Hundertwasser’s celebrated and offbeat principles–such as the rights of tenants to paint the walls outside of their windows, that trees should be given their own rooms, and that “straight lines lead to the downfall of humanity.” A brief biography of Hundertwasser at the end of the book fills readers in on the work of this pioneering artist whose ideas were once radical but are now integrated into many architectural concepts.
Géraldine Elschner is the author of numerous books including “The Cat and the Bird” and “Where is the Frog” (both by Prestel). She lives in Heidelberg. ZAÜ is a French illustrator, born 1943 in Rennes.
Lucie Vandevelde is a French illustrator of children’s books. Her professional life revolves around exhibitions in galleries, graphics for advertising, and interventions in school environments/bookstores as well as artistic residencies.
I particularly like this book for my 8 year old daughter as she is very artistic and has a soft side of her for animals and people. She enjoys me reading this one to her so she can spend her time browsing all the little details in all the illustrations. I also like that I learned a lot about Hundertwasser as it is always a pleasure to learn about people that I was not aware of alongside with my daughter. This is a delightful children’s book that I think is best left for full browsing and taking in all the amazing illustrations and it is a great reminder that city life does not mean that nature can’t also be a part of it.