This post about Józef Wilkon at the wonderful animalarium blog reminded me of another one of my favourite children’s books. I got it out of my shelf, and here it is “Oom Tonktonkie en sy maats” – roughly translated as “Mr Tonktonkie and his friends.” Written by Ursula Valentin and illustrated by Józef Wilkon.
It’s a sweet story about a lonely old man – Oom Tonktonkie – and his love for the wild birds in his neighbourhood. The illustrations are delicate ink washes in muted colours:
He feeds them and plays music to them – to the irritation of his downstairs neighbour, an unfriendly woman who runs a bakery. Notice the little birds listening on window sill:
But its winter time, the little birds are hungry and Oom Tonkt0nkie is poor. He worries what will happen to his friends when he no longer has money for seed:
Luckily, he rescues the baker’s canary, that escaped from its cage:
The baker is so grateful that she gives him an apple pie and money. She also tells everybody about him and his piano playing, and pretty soon Oom Tonktonkie has regular work retrieving lost birds by playing their songs on his piano. He can afford to feed all his friends right through winter:
And when spring comes, the birds are back in the forest, singing for Oom Tonktonkie.