A tubby little hippo is happily bobbing around on her back in an African pond. Her name is Ophelia and the illustration is a reference to the famous painting by John Everett Millais. But unlike the English painter’s tranquil picture, in which Hamlet’s heroine serenely floats along a river amongst luxuriant vegetation, Ingrid and Dieter Schubert’s Ophelia is the very image of chubby cheerfulness.
This resonance of images often occurs in Ophelia, the latest picture book from this husband-and-wife team of illustrators, who have been combining their forces for over thirty years, without ever revealing to the outside world who exactly does what. On this occasion they have set their story in jungle surroundings and based it loosely on the game of Chinese whispers, with the events becoming more and more dramatic as the story progresses. The whisper in this story involves Ophelia’s friend, Joppe the crocodile.
The harmless diagnosis of “butterflies in the stomach” gradually spins out of control until finally it becomes the gloomy news that Joppe is as dead as a dodo. Of course, this isn’t true and this colourful story full of action-packed, naturalistic pictures has a happy ending. Children all over the world have loved Ingrid and Dieter Schubert’s picture books for decades. In Ophelia, the Schuberts once again demonstrate the very best of their abilities.