Wolf Erlbruch

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Wolf Erlbruch (born 1948) is a German illustrator and writer of children's books. He combines various techniques for the artwork in his books, including cutting and pasting, drawing, and painting. His style is sometimes surrealist and is widely copied inside and outside Germany. Some of his story books have challenging themes such as death and the meaning of life. They have won many awards, including the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1993 and 2003.

For his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator Erlbruch received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2006 [1][2] In 2017, he was the first German to win the important Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.[3][4]


Born in Wuppertal, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Erlbruch studied graphic design at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen from 1967 to 1974, and worked as an illustrator for magazines such as Stern and Esquire. His first assignment as an illustrator of children's books came in 1985, when he was asked by the Wuppertal publisher Peter Hammer to illustrate Der Adler, der nicht fliegen wollte by James Aggrey; Erlbruch's son Leonard had just been born, and Erlbruch wanted him to be able to say, "Look, my papa made a children's book." Since then, he has both illustrated and written many books, and has become a professor of illustration at the University of Wuppertal.[5]


Erlbruch tackles many adult topics in children's books, though he is not always fond of being characterized as an author for children.[citation needed] Some of his books have autobiographical notes, such as his Leonard (a "delightfully eccentric tale"[6]), a book partly inspired by his then six-year-old son Leonard (now an illustrator himself[7]), about a boy who overcomes his fear of dogs by becoming a dog himself.[5][8] Many of the characters in his books, such as the mole of The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit (also known in English as The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business), have little round black glasses, such as Erlbruch has himself.[5] He is praised for the original and surreal quality of his work.[9] According to Silke Schnettler, writing in the German newspaper Die Welt, the "Erlbruch-style," whose main characters are skewed and sometimes disproportionate but nonetheless really recognizable, has become widely imitated inside and outside Germany.[10]

Death is a recurring topic in Erlbruch's books. Duck, Death and the Tulip (2008) features a duck who becomes friends with Death, and in Ein Himmel für den kleinen Bären ("A heaven for the little bear") a bear cub tries to find his recently deceased grandfather in bear heaven.

The moral of his own stories, Erlbruch suggested in 2003, is that people should regard themselves from a distance and accept even what is not so beautiful about themselves, but what is special.[10]


Many of Erlbruch's illustrations are made using mixed media and collage.[10] For The Story of the Little Mole, for instance, he drew the characters on brown wrapping paper, and pasted them on white paper.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

The Guardian called Duck, Death and the Tulip (2009), about a duck who finds himself being followed by and then becoming acquainted with death, an "outstanding book": "There is something infinitely tender in the way Death strokes her ruffled feathers into place, lifts her body and places it gently in the river, watching as she drifts off into the distance."[12]

Erlbruch's illustrations for Fürchterlichen Fünf (translated into English as The Fearsome Five) were adapted for the stage by the Landestheater Tübingen.[13]


The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Erlbuch received the illustration award in 2006.[1][2]

In 2003 he received the Gutenberg Award of the City of Leipzig for his contribution to the book arts, the cultural award of his native city Wuppertal, and a special Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for his body of work as illustrator.


As writer[edit]

  • Erlbruch, Wolf (1991). Leonard. Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag.
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (1992). Das Bärenwunder. Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag.
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (1997). Mrs. Meyer the Bird. Orchard. ISBN 978-0-531-30017-6.[20]
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (1999). Nachts. Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87294-834-2. Translated into Dutch,[21] Norwegian.[22]
  • Moritz, Karl Philipp; Wolf Erlbruch (2001). Das Neue ABC-Buch. Kunstmann.
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (2005). The Big Question. Europa. ISBN 978-1-933372-03-7.
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (2006). The Miracle of the Bears. Michael Reynolds (trans.). Europa. ISBN 978-1-933372-21-1.
  • Erlbruch, Wolf (2008). Duck, Death and the Tulip. Gecko. ISBN 978-1-877467-17-2.

As illustrator[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Hans Christian Andersen Awards" (top page). International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  2. ^ a b "2006". Hans Christian Andersen Awards. IBBY. With presentation speech by jury president Jeffrey Garrett (2006-09-21) and other contemporary material. Acceptance speeches for 2006 are missing. Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  3. ^ Platthaus, Andreas (2017-04-05). "Astrid-Lindgren-Preis: Aus dem kleinen feinen Reingarnichts". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  4. ^ "Wolf Erlbruch is the 2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate - ALMA". alma.se. 2017-04-02. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  5. ^ a b c d Schnettler, Silke (2000-02-01). "Von Maulwürfen und Menschen: Ver-Rückt sein ist gut: Ein Besuch beim Kinderbuchzeichner und -autor Wolf Erlbruch". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  6. ^ "Book Review Holiday Special Section". Los Angeles Times. 1995-12-03. p. 16.
  7. ^ Kindermann, Klemens (2003-10-01). "Kinderbücher: Verführung zum Träumen". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  8. ^ "Children's Books; Bookshelf". The New York Times. 1996-04-21. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  9. ^ Catinchi, Philippe-Jean; Florence Noiville (2001-03-16). "Des images secrètes et riches de sens caché". Le Monde (in French).
  10. ^ a b c d Schnettler, Silke (2003-03-21). "Der Vater des kleinen Maulwurfs: Buchmesse feiert den Zeichner Wolf Erlbruch". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  11. ^ Duin, Lieke van (1997-04-16). "Zwaarte en lichtheid bij Wolf Erlbruch". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  12. ^ Rosoff, Meg (2009-12-19). "Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  13. ^ Jahnke, Manfred (1997-05-07). "Keine Zeit für Pausen: Eine Bilanz des Kinder- und Jugendtheatertreffen in Berlin". Stuttgarter Zeitung (in German).
  14. ^ a b Blankendaal, Stijntje (1999-10-07). "Eindelijk werd ik zelf bijziend". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  15. ^ a b "Deutschsprachige Kinder- und Jugendliteratur - Autoren und Illustratoren - Wolf Erlbruch". Goethe Institute. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  16. ^ "Sonderpreisträger von 1991 bis 2008". Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  17. ^ "Wuppertals Kulturpreis an Illustrator Prof. Wolf Erlbruch". uni-protokolle. 2003-12-09. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  18. ^ Derrien, Marie. "Radical Trends in French Picturebooks". The Lion and the Unicorn. 29 (2): 171–89. ISSN 0147-2593. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  19. ^ "Wolf Erlbruch is the 2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate - ALMA". alma.se. 2017-04-02. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  20. ^ "Children's Books; Bookshelf". The New York Times. 1997-10-12. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  21. ^ Nauta, Hans (1999-10-06). "De Indianen slapen, dus slapen de cowboys ook". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  22. ^ Moe Mette (2004-03-18). "Rev. of Wolf Erlbruch, Om Natta, trans. by Anne Horn". Barnebokkritikk. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  23. ^ "Die besten 7 Kinderbücher für junge Leser". Focus (in German). August 1996. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  24. ^ Bolle, Sonja (2006-09-03). "Kids read the darnedest things, After school or before bed, any time is the right time for reading new stories or classics to your children". Newsday. p. C23.
  25. ^ McDonald, Maggie (1994-11-19). "And now for children's hour ..." New Scientist. Retrieved 2010-01-04. (subscription required)
  26. ^ "So where is the bunny?". The Daily Telegraph. 2001-04-07. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  27. ^ Boer, Peter de (2003-03-29). "Kunnen jullie toevallig een beer gebruiken?". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  28. ^ Fenly, Leigh (2005-09-04). "A little bit o' rhyme will get you through the day". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2013-11-25.
  29. ^ Wergeland, Kari (2005-04-02). "A few poets know it: how to write verse that connects with kids". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-11-25.

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