Book Review: Hildegarde And Maximilian By Fernando Krahn

Today’s book cost me about a quarter and was discovered in a pile of dirty, discarded books on the bottom shelf of a thrift store. The cover of the book shows its 43 years with a missing dust jacket, torn and chewed edges and a few pencil scribbles on internal pages. But there is no price tag for the delighted smile that just a glimpse at this little square book brought to my face. It is a tale of ladybugs who grow very fond of each other, dream big together, and live a happy and fulfilled life in their love and family. This is Hildegarde and Maximilian by Fernando Krahn, 1970.

Hilde and Max 2

This is what greeted me upon opening the book. I would be lying to say that I wouldn’t have taken the book home going on just those pages alone, but thankfully there is so much more to it as well. Meet Maximilian the Yellow and Hildegarde Red.

Hilde and Max 3

They met at the top of a hat once, grew very fond of each other, and decided to continue their happiness into wedded bliss. Queen Bee marries them and dubs them “Lord” and “Lady.”

Hilde and Max 4

They set out on their biggest adventure yet, to visit the moon; but alas, their journey is fraught with many problems. It happens easily when you are two ladybugs in a vast world and sky.

Hilde and Max 6

Thankfully, their bond holds them together and their dream takes a very different turn. And in my opinion, you can’t ask much more from the world to be two lovely ladybugs, with enviable names, and forget to be concerned about your unfulfilled plans because, in the words of author Mr. Krahn, “They were too happy.”

Hilde and Max 5

Published in 1970, it shouldn’t be surprising that this book has met with some more recent criticism about its all for family “sacrificial” message. But really? This sweet story is simple, heartwarming, lovely and oh so beautifully designed. I firmly believe that our culture gets too caught up in “trying to have it all” and forces that need on everyone, forgetting that many people don’t define “having it all” the same way. Oh to be sweetly contented and “too happy” as dear Hildegarde and Maximilian and just about every child I’ve ever known who still knows how to find sheer joy in the simplest of things and accomplishments.

Creator Fernando Krahn was a Chilean cartoonist who produced over 40 children’s picture books. With Hildegarde and Maximilian, he not only shows off his incredible knack for picking awesome and unique names, but crafts a clever little story with stunning block-printed illustrations. I deeply love the crisp black images with only tiny bits of color being the saturated bodies of yellow Maximilian and red Hildegarde. Every image is square in shape and has a border of some sort, most created from a portion of the image within. The text itself is also unique, set in Office Typewriter that might possibly make serious designers cringe. The casual simplicity of it and obvious conscious decision of it is something worth appreciating and noting.

I wish you a happy Monday with a glimpse into this 70s Chilean picture book and I hope you find time to be “too happy” today, whether you take a trip to the moon, simply plan on it, or find yourself surrounded by something completely different than you ever dreamed about.

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