Saturday, 25 January 2020
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A lift to New Zealand

Lifts are fascinating – especially for children. Lots of buttons, new people, new perspectives. In the children’s book "The flying lift" the lift magic ends in a trip round the world.

The children’s book "The flying lift" of the Dutch author Annie Schmidt. (Source: Oetinger / Annie Schmidt)

Until the dream came true – and the young reader Barbara went to New Zealand years later. Barbara was ten when her well-read and widely travelled grandmother gave her the children’s book "The flying lift" of the Dutch author Annie Schmidt as a present. In Barbara’s hometown there was no public lift in the 1960s.

"But at my grandmother’s in Bonn," she recalled. "A lift was something very special, it had so many buttons you could press, people were getting in and out all the time, there were new sights whenever the doors opened."

Flying around the whole world

HandwerkA lift also fascinates the young Abeltje in Annie Schmidt’s children’s book. He presses the uppermost button and – oh wonder – the lift shoots through the roof and sets off on a great journey. With four passengers, Abeltje, Mr Tump, Miss Klaterhuhn and Laura. "My grandmother found out about the book in the advertising brochure ‘Give us books– give us wings’ of the Oetinger publishing house,"

Barbara revealed, who now works as a doctor in Cologne. Wings really are given in the book – to the lift. It flies around the whole world, first landing in the middle of the ocean, then in New York and South America with all kinds of adventures for its passengers. And at the end it takes the wrong direction, plunges through the earth and comes out on the other side in New Zealand.

"This magic never left me," Barbara still happily recalls today, "the high-rise buildings on the cover, the notion of a lift that came to life to travel to another world, the idea of a trip with unknown people." Undreamt of possibilities opened themselves up to the child reader.

Back to familiar ground

Fifteen years later the lift story of Annie Schmidt lent Barbara very real wings. "I still couldn’t get the idea of travelling to New Zealand someday out of my head and I actually spent the practical year of my medical degree there."

Abeltje and his fellow adventurers eventually arrive home to the relief of their families. Barbara found her way back to Germany too. Because a lift as wonderful as this one – always brings one back to familiar ground.

Bettina Heimsoeth

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