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Helpful Little Elves and Mischief-Makers in Fantasy Books for Children


Myra here.

I paired these two picturebooks together seeing how they celebrate mischief and fantasy in children’s literature. Art-wise, they couldn’t be any different as they are published centuries-apart, yet the idea of fantasy-like creatures doing things without us knowing – remain ever-present in both narratives.

img_8588The Helpful Elves

Written by: August Kopisch Illustrated by: Beatrice Braun-Fock
Published by: Floris Books, 2011. First Published in German as Die Heinzelmännchcen in March 1836. ISBN: 0863158153 (ISBN13: 9780863158155)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

I am enamoured by any children’s book that originally came from Germany and so I immediately borrowed this from the library after seeing the details around this apparently-classic children’s story from Cologne.


As you can see above, there is a hole in the book cover showing these mischievous-looking elves – making me wonder how advanced European publishing houses must be like in the 1800s to have printed and distributed a book like this.


Reminiscent of Grimm Brothers’ The Elves and the Shoemaker, this story tells the story of elves who do things for the baker, the carpenter, the winemaker, the tailor (among others) – as they sleep, because apparently Cologne is reputed to have easygoing, fairly-laid-back townsfolk who love sleeping more than working.


Until the time that the tailor’s wife took it upon herself to discover who exactly are these mysterious helpers who do the townspeople’s chores for them. How it ends, I shall leave for you to discover. While these are hardly Santa’s elves, they do remain helpful elves, and I do love the vintage-y feel of the book.

The Mischieviansimg_8595

Written and Illustrated by: William Joyce with Joe Bluhm
Published by: Moonbot Books – Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2013. ISBN: 1442473479 (ISBN13: 9781442473478)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

I am a huge fan of William Joyce’s picturebooks (see my review of Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and my Guardians of Childhood special). This book is somewhat different though as it features those pesky unseen little critters that bring a measure of seemingly-harmless but terribly-annoying mischief in any household: the mischievians!


The book begins innocently enough with these two children wondering about little things that bring such a nuisance in their home: lost homework that they have actually finished doing, car keys that can’t be found, tv remote missing – that kind of thing.


Then they get zapped into some kind of laboratory underneath by a fellow named Dr. Zooper who then proceeded to give them a lecture of those unseen mischievians that bring all this about. Think of this picturebook as an encyclopedia of sorts that provides a wealth of information about mischievians such as the homework eater, or the dangler who allows a booger to go dangling outside of one’s nose all day.


Unlike Joyce’s other picturebooks, this one is a little more text-heavy than usual, but oh-so-much fun. I mean just look at this little mischief-maker named the Lintbellian – the one responsible for those belly button lints!


I really enjoyed how much of the mischievians here are super gross enough to entice even the most reluctant reader to stick through the text that is so much fun. I have a feeling William Joyce cracked himself up doing this book – I loved the wordplay, the refreshing humour, the absurdities that are borderline credible, even. Case in point would be the Earworm responsible for the bad song that keeps playing over and over in your head.


Most importantly, there is a blank page at the end of the book that encourages young readers to report their own observation (and drawing) of mischievians that they chanced upon in their own homes – a full description down to the size, colour, history, and level of mischief need to be recorded down. Definitely a fun book you should think about getting young mischief-makers this Christmas.

Here’s a cutesie picturebook trailer that you need to see if my review has not convinced you yet. Enjoy!

1 comment on “Helpful Little Elves and Mischief-Makers in Fantasy Books for Children

  1. This book sounds awesome! 😀


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