Donnie from the children’s books likes to go in dresses and share her wealth

Sasa Ostoja and Lisa MaschhauptPicture Hilde Harshagen

If Donnie wins the jackpot at the ball throw, he can not believe his luck. But as his friends’ coins run dry and he is left alone, his mood changes. He learns that not all children received the same amount of money from their parents, and that real wealth lies in sharing: ‘One is born on a mountain of money, the other has to settle for less, but that is not what counts . Giving a hand of coins away makes you a hero. ‘

So much for the plot and morale of Donnie at the fair† Almost two years ago, Holland made donnie first acquaintance with his protagonist Donnie, the creation of the author Lisa Maschhaupt and the illustrator Saša Ostoja. It marked the creation of a colorful fantasy world full of anthropomorphic animals. The purpose of the book: to offer parents a handle on making contemporary topics such as inclusiveness open to discussion for the youngest audience.

With the recently released sequel, Maschhaupt’s dream came true donnie to make a series: ‘I hope that at some point there will be parents with – so to speak – a closet filled with Donnies on various topics.’ Therefore, they started working on the sequel almost immediately after the release of the first part.

Opportunity inequality

Where the first story in the Donnie universe had self-acceptance as its main theme (Donnie wants to wear a dress but gets laughed at by his friends), Donnie at the fair the subject of inequality of opportunity. Maschhaupt is aware of his choice of this issue as the theme for the second part: ‘It is a question that plays a huge role. In Amsterdam, where I live, one can see it just by the fact that there are ‘poor’ and ‘rich’, ‘white’ and ‘black’ schools. People live in bubbles that already appear at a young age. ‘

Not only does social engagement Donnie at the fair to a modern phenomenon. Maschhaupt is also not afraid to use contemporary language. ‘fissa’ (party), ‘tori’ (history) and ‘team’ (group of friends) pass by as examples of words the older reader might need to look up. Is the eternity of the book not affected by such a language? “In a way, it’s slang, but those are words that have been around for a long time,” the author says. “I do not want.”

‘Lisa has a certain logic that I fully trust’, says illustrator Ostoja about the collaboration. ‘With the team – Lisa, graphic designer Pieter Jan Boterhoek and I – we came up with quick sketches that served as a kind of storyboard.’ Then he picked up the drawing board and transformed that stage diagram into his characteristic, motley animal world.

Saša Ostoja and Lisa Maschhaupt Image Hilde Harshagen

Sasa Ostoja and Lisa MaschhauptPicture Hilde Harshagen


Ostoja has previously worked for several clients. His animals appeared in articles in de Volkskrant, on Innocent juice bottles and on the office wall at Nike’s Dutch headquarters. He experiences this variation as instructive: ‘I like to be thrown into the deep end as a draftsman. By always being able to create your own world, you can truly grow as an illustrator. ‘

This growth was reflected in the creation of the children’s book series in an enhanced sense of composition and coherence: ‘When I made the first part, I could sometimes get lost in certain visual jokes, or I was too preoccupied with the details. Then I went wrong by drawing too much in the middle of a spread and not taking enough account of the book’s backbone. In the beginning it was very sweaty and raining. Bee Donnie at the fair I could distribute my energy better. ‘

According to Ostoja, it was primarily about finding the right balance: ‘You can go in all directions with a children’s book. On the one hand you can go for a strong iconic image, the other extreme are busy pages filled with details à la Where’s Wally?† I have tried to find a middle ground «.

    Illustration from Donnie on Fair Picture rv

Illustration from Donnie at the fairpicture rv

‘Adult’ theme

The question remains whether one can or should at all confront children with seemingly ‘adult’ themes. Ostoja: ‘A child’s fantasy is next level, they can handle a lot. Children do not think within limits, everything is possible and everything is allowed. ‘ Maschhaupt is aware of the intentions she has when she gets her main character raised by two mothers, for example: ‘You say: This is there. It is then up to the parents to discuss this with their child in their own way. ‘

It goes without saying that a children’s book should be more than just a topic of conversation: ‘If there is no exciting story, no cool illustrations and no beautiful world, a child will not choose a book’, the author believes. Both the author and the illustrator believe that they have succeeded in these ambitions. ‘When I draw, I live like in my own little world. Then it’s very cool to experience, for example, during the presentation that there are so many Donnie fans. They really love him, it’s fun to watch, “said Ostoja. Maschhaupt: ‘Recently, a parent told me that her child had come back from the store with extra candy to share it with his friends.” Like Donnie, ” he had said.

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