Front page of "Heidelberg wimmelt", framed with a white heart. The background is green. The caption reads: Teamwork with Silberburg launchen »Teeming in Heidelberg«.

Looking Back, Looking Forward — Teeming up with Silberburg Publishers

Author: Kimberley Hoffman
Estimated Reading Time: ca 13 Minutes

It pays to persevere …

My professional and artistic career as an illustrator began 20 years ago. At the time, my son was just three years old and my daughter six, and I can’t say that the first few years were crowned with success. They were difficult years, often with long dry spells and a lot of self-doubt. Until … 

One day, I met a lady at the Frankfurt Book Trade Fair. She had a regional publishing house that had recently brought out a search-and-find book (Wimmelbook) about Stuttgart by Tina Krehan. Something made me say unfiltered: “I can do that too!”. Really. That’s how it was. 

Ms. Werner, the publisher of Silberburg-Verlag, saw something in my work. She recommended me to others, but it took a while, a good six months, before I heard from her again. That was in May 2016. 

She asked me to submit a paid sample drawing. And was it was accepted. 

Photo of the Frankfurt Trade Fair on a blue background. The photo lies in a frame of a book icon
The Frankfurt Bookfair: Once there, you never want to leave

The beginning of “Heidelberg wimmelt”

That is how it all started. “Heidelberg wimmelt” was the title I was supposed to illustrate. Heidelberg has such an important place in my life. Heidelberg was my gateway to Germany, where I’d taken my first overseas flight when I was 17. Café Heidelberg in New York City was where I met my husband, and “Heidelberg wimmelt” was my first Wimmel book. 

The Very Important Person

And in Heidelberg, I stayed with my relatives while I did my Heidelberg picture research and made drawings of citizens. One famous citizen was the mayor himself.

I remember my cousin telling me what a VIP the mayor was. I wasn’t actually nervous about this appointment, but my cousin’s words stuck in my head so much that I googled the mayor the night before and made a few sketches of him. And yes, I confessed that to the mayor the next day. 

Illustration on a red background. The illustration shows Tübingen. Beech trees and book trees can be seen in the background.
When is a book not a book? When it is a language misunderstanding.

Schönbuch Street

I got to go to the Silberburg Publishers in Tübingen to discuss the artwork and color matching before printing.

Fun Fact: The address of the Silberburg publishing house at the time was “Schönbuchstrasse”. You must know that »schön« means pretty, »Buch« means book, and »Strasse« means street. The name fit like a glove. Silberburg-Verlag publishes wonderful regional books about Baden-Württemberg.

It was only later that I realized that “Schönbuch” referred to beech trees and not to beautiful books. The locals had chopped the »e« off the word »Buche« which means beech tree. It is a funny mistake that still makes me giggle. 

Double-page hidden object picture of the Mannheim train station.
Mannheim? I only knew it from the train station

Mannheim? Only From The Train Station

It took another year before Silberburg commissioned a new Wimmel book, »Mannheim wimmelt«. I only knew Mannheim from the train platform. I think I had only been to the city once or twice. But why not? 

Photo ©Annete Kesting, Stefan Wendel, author and illustrator consultant
Mr. Stefan Wendel is an author and illustrator consultant. I have a lot to thank Mr. Wendel for.

Just A Little Matter of the Contract

And then came the contract. To be honest, contract negotiations had always made my stomach ache. What’s more, contracts in Germany are not written in English, my native language, but in German, of course. Despite having a good connection to the Illustratoren Organisation e. V., I felt overwhelmed by this step.

Fortunately, there was Mr. Stefan Wendel.

He is an author and illustrator consultant and handles contract negotiations so that authors and illustrators like me can learn from these experiences. For me, it took the pressure off. He was able to negotiate good terms for me, and it was an educational experience for me. I am deeply grateful to him for that. Without his efforts, there would be no 3rd edition of “Mannheim wimmelt”.  So, Mr. Wendel, many, many, many thanks at this point. 

Mannheim—Little Manhattan

Oh my goodness! The palace in Mannheim is immense! It’s the city of squares. Starting at the palace. The city calls itself Little Manhattan, among other things. I had serious doubts about that before my visit. But it’s true. There are districts, such as Jungbusch, that have a lot in common with Greenwich Village. Life there is multicultural. 

I wasn’t just allowed to do research in the Technoseum, it’s so fascinating, I would have loved to have been able to live there. The Technoseum was so friendly and allowed me to draw the Mannheimers. And: true story: so many people wanted to appear in “Mannheim wimmelt” that I actually continued to draw them outside after closing time. 

Mannheim is famous for many things, such as the invention of the bicycle. Well, that in itself is great! We need more bicycles on the road. Cycling is really nice. Especially when there’s a spaghetti ice cream at the end of the ride! I tried the original spaghetti ice cream at Café Fontanella and it was delicious. Unfortunately, the original café has been closed since 2023. But spaghetti ice cream remains a very popular treat for Germans. 

Mannheim is a UNESCO City of Music. I have taken up this theme in two Wimmel books. In “Mannheim wimmelt” you will find many musicians on the cover. In “Die Kurpfalz wimmelt” you can experience a whole concert! 

Title page of "Heilbronn wimmelt" with the award "#WIA LONGLISTED ARTIST!" on a red background
This World Illustration Award Nomination was such an honor

»Heilbronn wimmelt«

In 2020, I received a new search-and-find book commission from Silberburg-Verlag. This time I was supposed to draw Heilbronn. I happened to know someone who lived near Heilbronn. I asked him what Heilbronn looked like. “Heilbronn is ugly” was the answer. In fact, the people of Heilbronn have long had a love-hate relationship with their city. 

In 2019, the Federal Horticultural Show, known as the BUGA, was held there, and the city spruced itself up for it. As a result, the citizens of Heilbronn slowly changed their attitudes toward Heilbronn.

The pandemic was in full force. How should I get to know the people of Heilbronn? Holding events to draw people would have been too dangerous. So, with the help of Conny Danner, my web designer, I enabled the people of Heilbronn to send me a photo of themselves and take part. I raffled off places on the cover via social media. The participants had to tell me what they liked about Heilbronn. 

Thanks to “my” Heilbronn residents, I was able to learn a lot about Heilbronn. There were things I hadn’t discovered before, such as background insider information, suggestions, stories and tales about Heilbronn. 

Thanks to the Heilbronner residents, my book “Heilbronn wimmelt” was long listed for the Association of Illustrators’ World Illustration Awards.

Illustration from "Ludwigsburg wimmelt" It shows the choir "Die Abendsterne" on the Ludwigsburg market square. The picture is on a blue background. The text reads: Die Abendsterne not only provided me with the largest group registration for participation in "Ludwigsburg wimmelt", but a beautiful music CD to boot.
Die Abendsterne Choir sings to the stars in Ludwigsburg

»Ludwigsburg wimmelt«

The online registration inviting people to appear as characters in my book worked great for »Heilbronn wimmelt«. I took advantage of this opportunity for the next Silberburg commission, »Ludwigsburg wimmelt«. A total of 447 adults and 22 children registered. Plus the pets: 111; and cuddly toys: 15. 

Ludwigsburg is renowned for the Ludwigsburg Palace and its baroque gardens. It is a huge areal, and I got to stroll through the gardens several times during my stay. I was able to enjoy a private tour of the palace. The pandemic was still raging. It was a unique experience to learn about the history of the castle on such a private tour. 

Ludwigsburg and Their Partnership with Burkina Faso

What I particularly remember is the fundraising campaign for the Ludwigsburg association “Förderkreis Burkina Faso e. V.”. The library in Ludwigsburg exhibited my art prints from “Ludwigsburg wimmelt”, which I subsequently auctioned off. Mrs. Susanne Karstedt accepted the funds I earned from the auction as a donation.

Due to the unrest in the world, e.g. the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, donations were suddenly declining elsewhere. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. That’s why I felt the need to do something good.

Excerpt from "Schwaben wimmelt". The illustration shows the Swabian Railway with engine driver, two traveling priests eating Maultaschen, the old farmer and the farmer's wife. The goat is roller-skating behind the locomotive. The illustration is on a green background. The text of the picture reproduces the song "Auf de schwäbische Eisenbahn".

»Schwaben wimmelt«

You can say a lot about the Swabians. In this country, they are politely known as thrifty, not so politely known as stingy. But you can give the Swabians credit for one thing: they are inventive. Many of the famous German inventions, such as the car, were invented by a Swabian. For example, Knorr packet soup or the Steiff teddy bear. 

I think the reason for this ability to invent something useful goes back to the barrenness of the land. Just think of the specialties of the region: Spätzle, Maultaschen, and Flädlesupp’, which is a broth that contains leftover crêpes sliced into noodles. Nothing is wasted, but it is always delicious. Wealth is not always a blessing. 

During the pandemic, I noticed how my online students showed their best creativity when they couldn’t use their usual art materials. Necessity is the mother of invention. This is also the case in Swabia. You can see that in my »Schwaben wimmelt«.

The Swabian Choo-Choo-Train

The »Swabian Choo-Choo Train« runs through this Wimmel book. This is a famous children’s song that tells the story of a farmer, his wife and a goat. 

On the Swabian railway line,
Many stops along the way we find…
Schtuegert, Ulm and Biberach, Mekkebeure, Durlesbach.
Trulla, trulla, trullalla
trulla, trulla, trulla la,
Schtuegert, Ulm and Biberach
Meckebeure, Durlesbach.

The farmer of the song is so stingy that he wouldn’t buy a ticket for his newly purchased goat. The goat is tethered at the end of the train and has to run the entire route through the towns. In the end, the goat is dead. The farmer saved his money  at the wrong end. In my Wimmel book, I leave the goat alive. It jumps on the train and just goes along for the ride and enoys many adventures along the way.

Photo ©Steph Burlefinger Self-portrait with Wimmel books
Steph Burlefinger and I have sent our most famous characters on »exchange trips« to visit each other. How? You can find out in our books.

Characters on Exchange—Another First for Silberburg

»Schwaben wimmelt« and Steph Burlefinger’s »Baden wimmelt« were scheduled to be published together to celebrate 70 years of Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg is a German state which was formed from three former German states in 1952 (Some call it the shotgun wedding of the year). So we decided on a special illustrated event: we lent each other some of our main characters to appear in each other’s books. This is a first for Silberburg. And I really like Steph Burlefiner’s style of work. I’m sure you’ll like it too.

Excerpt from "Die Kurpfalz wimmelt". The Gajemänndl. It shows a forest spirit and a robber. The forest spirit is throwing nuts at the tree thief to punish him.

»Die Kurpfalz wimmelt«

Then came a project from Silberburg that really inspired me: »Die Kurpfalz wimmelt«. As I’ve often visited relatives in Heidelberg, I’m familiar with the Electoral Palatinate, the »Kurpfalz« region. Heidelberg is also part of it. I discovered even more about the region through my research. 

Did you know that Mark Twain, an American writer, spent time in the Electoral Palatinate? Or that Elector Karl Ludwig only bathed once a year in Schwetzingen Palace? Ohhh! That was a ceremony, for sure!

The biggest difficulty was deciding on representing one of the many local dialects of the Electoral Palatinate. I had help from a very knowledgeable person. If you want to know his first name, look for a yellow balloon on the double page of “Heidelberger Summer”. Have you found it yet? 

I learned about a forest spirit, the Gajemänndl. He is a good-natured forest spirit who looks after his forest. He punishes bad people who steal wood from his forest by playing tricks on them. Every forest needs a Gajemänndl, don’t you think?

Illustration aus »Der Hohenlohekreis wimmelt«, Kupferzell. Sie zeigt sieben Kinder, einen Ritter und ein Dino, die nach Fossilien suchen.
Hast du schon alle Fossilien entdeckt?

»Der Hohenlohekreis wimmelt«

This is my seventh hidden object book for Silberburg and is about a region in Baden-Württemberg that is considered an insider tip—»Hohenlohe wimmelt« The Hohenlohe district is a rural area with an astonishing number of castles. Schöntal Abbey is also part of the Hohenlohe district.

It is also historically important that the Limes runs through the district. Straight as a needle. The people of Hohenlohe have marked this important historical landmark between the Roman Empire and the Germanic countries with special observation towers. The Limes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Hohenlohe district, mainly in and around Kupferzell, is so rich in fossils that the area is considered a “mass grave of fossil dinosaurs”. 

The Hohenlohe district with the Köcher and Jagst rivers is a picturesque landscape well worth seeing. 

And the next Wimmel book?

Looking Forward

Yes, my next Wimmel book is already in the works. It’s a little different from the previous one because it’s a Wimmel book about the historical development of Stuttgart. It should be available at the end of May, beginning of June. 

It’s called: »Historischer Wimmelspaß in Stuttgart«. Sign up for my newsletter. I’ll let you know when it’s available. 

I want to thank you, especially, for being part of my creative world

I Want to Thank…

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Silberburg-Verlag, who entrusted me with these books and consider me one of their “in-house illustrators”.

I would also like to thank my relatives in Heidelberg. Without you, these books would certainly not exist.  And I thank my husband and our children, who keep my back free so that I can live out my creativity and, sometimes unwittingly, provide me with funny ideas for my Wimmel books.

And I want to thank YOU, too! Thanks for coming along my creative journey and supporting me.