‘The trip to Panama’ is an English translation of the book ‘Oh wie schoen ist Panama’ by the German children’s book author Janosch. To give you an idea how popular this book and this author are in Germany, let me just say that Janosch is the German Maurice Sendak and ‘Oh wie schoen ist Panama’ is the German ‘Where the wild things are’. Like Sendak, Janosh has the ability to cut right through to the heart with very few, carefully selected words, and like Sendak he does both story and illustration.
The story itself is about a little bear and a little tiger, aptly named little bear and little tiger, who live in a small cottage by a river. Little bear goes fishing and little tiger collects mushrooms. One day little bear finds a wooden crate that smells of bananas and has the word Panama written on the outside. Soon little bear convinces little tiger to go with him to find Panama, because it is the most beautiful place in the word. Together they go wandering off. Little tiger also has a little duck on wheels that can be pulled on a string, has tiger stripes, and as any toy of a little kid would, has to come with. On their journey they meet a lot of animals who are more or less helpful to find Panama. In the end they find Panama back in a very familiar place.
The English translation differs from the German original in two points. One is the title. The correct translation of the German title would be: ‘Oh how beautiful is Panama!’ The change to ‘trip’ makes sense in order to give the gist of the book, but it betrays the main idea about the beauty found in everyday items and the way kids view them as extraordinary.
The other change is that one encounter with a fox is left out. I guess it was against the sensitivities of the American public to deal with a dead goose.
Still, if you can, get ‘The trip to Panama’ for either the little ones in your life, or for yourself. The story has a lovely message of friendship and a sense of wonder. The illustrations are superb, and it is a great book to read aloud.
Here is a link to it. It is usually not found in bookstores. However, I am sure the bookstore proprietors will be more than happy to order it for you.