Size matters is the underlying message of this traditional Swiss story. Ursli lives in a little village in a high Valley of the Engadine Mountains. The picture book opens with a cheery introduction to his winter routines, and his anticipation of the Procession of the Bells, when the village boys will parade ringing their cowbells to chase the snow and welcome the spring. However, when the day comes he is given only a puny calf-bell, so he fights off his humiliation by hiking alone into the freezing heights to retrieve a bull-sized bell from his family’s summer hut. Benighted and snowbound, he spends a night of fear in the hut before descending to rejoin his worried family and fellow villagers in the morning.
This short and simple story is a favourite in Switzerland, where the work of the poet Chönz and the painter Carigiet have been enjoyed for generations. This is its first appearance in English. The uncomplicated parallel between Ursli’s physical journey and his struggle to recover his pride should appeal to young readers. So, too, should the description of a familiar type of conflict courageously resolved in unfamiliar surroundings, which are drawn as both picturesque and charged with impending perils.