2002 Austria

Climbing up Book by Book

The girl sat in a beautiful garden surrounded by a high wall. She was all alone. Do not ask me how she came to be in the garden or who brought food for her to eat. I do not know.

The girl felt lonely.

Somewhere there must be a door in the wall, she thought. Slowly she walked along the wall, feeling the stones, but she could find no crack, no crevice, no opening. She knocked on the wall, testing the sound, but it was the same all the way along.

The girl sat under the huge tree in the middle of the garden. High above flew a flock of birds.

Suddenly a book was lying beside her. On the first page stood a large A and beside it an apple with red cheeks, an ant and an alligator. On the next page there was a B with a ball and a bear and a bird.

When the girl had learnt all the letters of the alphabet a second book came floating down, then a third, a fourth, a fifth... The girl leafed through the books. Every book had a different rustle. She smelled the books. Every book had a different scent. In the beginning the girl read letters only, then the letters began to form words and the words sentences and finally stories. The girl read on and on. She rode elephants and camels, she paddled a canoe and sped across the ice in a sledge drawn by huskies. She sat on a golden chair in a royal castle and on a colourful blanket in a teepee. Most important, however, were the children in the books, happy children, sad children, shy children, cheeky children, wild children, quiet children.

The girl dreamed about these children. While reading she was with them, but when she reached out to touch one of them she was alone again and sad.

Then the girl had an idea. She laid book upon book and built a staircase long enough to climb up and look over the wall.

Down below she saw another garden and a child sitting in the garden.

"Hello!" called the girl.

The other child looked up and raised his arms. The girl climbed down into her own garden, picked up an armful of books and piled them up on the wall. The boy had put his head on his arms and was weeping.

"Watch out!" cried the girl and dropped one book after the other. Gently as leaves they sailed onto the grass. Seven times the girl had to fetch more books, then the boy built a staircase on his side of the wall. One step at a time he climbed up, very cautiously.

The children put their arms round each other and laughed. Then they sat on the top of the wall and dangled their legs.

Message: Renate Welsh was born in Vienna in 1937. She began writing for young people in 1969 and has written over sixty books, many of which have been translated into numerous languages. She is the current President of Austrian IBBY and has been their candidate for the Andersen Award for Writing in 1994, 2000 and 2002.

Poster: Maria Blazejovsky was born in Styria in 1945. She has won many awards for her work and is the Austrian nominee for illustration on the 2002 IBBY Honour List for the book Mia malt by Sigrid Laube.