Follow Phonetic Planet as they explore there and everywhere, connecting you and your child with outdoor experiences, environmentally friendly adventures and small businesses that reflect our own values. It’s always a pleasure to find nature-themed reading material in a child-friendly setting! Today, Susan introduces you to a true gem in Vienna’s delightful 4th district.

I almost missed it, being distracted by the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar area of the city. Vienna has twenty three districts in total, and I am still finding my way around most of them after a year and a half. When you walk around this city there is so much to take in, between architectural masterpieces, inviting green spaces that beckon to be investigated and numerous boutique stores. On top of that, add a significant quantity of bakeries and chocolate shops and it is easy to understand how a short walk can turn into a long adventure. Well, there I was puttering along Schleifmuhlgasse when I was distracted, yet again, by something intriguing. This time it was a little free library, tucked away into the wall beside……….one of the most attractive shops I have yet seen in this city of overwhelming beauty.

On its website Fabelwelt shares an inspiring quote of Astrid Lindgren that resonates with our mission here at Phonetic Planet :

How the world of tomorrow will look, depends on the imagination of those who are now learning to read.”

I wasn’t to know this, of course, as I was crossing the threshold into this beautiful space. However, the first impression one receives is of an environment prepared with the child in mind. There is no clutter, books are elegantly presented and the atmosphere is conducive to staying a while and enjoying the literature. For reading pleasure there is a sofa and some tasteful child-sized furniture. Lona Szep, owner, took a little time to explain the various outreach programs presented on the premises including storytime (in various languages and sometimes bilingual), crafting workshops such as knitting or origami, and writing workshops for children 8 years and older. In this space, that would be heavenly. 


It was clear from the beginning that I would most likely be succumbing to temptation before leaving this store! But first, I took a long and leisurely stroll around the bookshelves. In this city, home to the United Nations, we enjoy a lively multicultural society. Fabelwelt is proud to stock books in twenty five languages including German, English, Russian, Swedish, Japanese and Italian but also Persian, Swahili, Finnish and Arabic. 

I’ve never allowed a language barrier to interfere with any purchase I’ve made in a bookstore, however, so I was not going to limit myself to browsing through the English books. Luckily I have a husband who collects children’s books from all over the world and is always open to adding to his collection! 


Books are clearly chosen for their aesthetic beauty as well as their literary value here. Almost every book is, in itself, a work of art with an array of international authors and illustrators represented on a variety of topics. The inventoryfrequently focuses on thematic material that relates to nature, slow living and the innate sense of wonder that is part of childhood. 

There were a few familiar favorites, too! Eric Carle was very popular in our New England home and we were lucky enough to visit a museum dedicated to his work from time to time.


Each language section is identified by a flag, which makes shopping easier for those who have personal preferences. The promotion of interest in foreign languages is an important part of the store’s mission, as well as the cultivation of a love of reading and the goal of providing good quality books of aesthetic appeal. 


Nothing is randomly selected here. Each book is chosen with purpose and Lona’s dedication to her business is palpable. Consider her own words, as communicated on Fabelwelt’s website:

Where these stories place a seed among the youngest, empathy also sprouts - we and our children feel with the characters. Literally, other cultures and worlds open up for us, also through foreign languages, we are drawn into a boundless world of imagination. And here begins the education of the heart of our future generations.

This sentiment so beautifully conveys all that is to be found in here. I resisted the temptation to linger in the reading corner and kept on looking for that perfect book. As they say, persistence always pays off!


Here was my final choice. Sonja Danowski lives in berlin and was recommended to me by Lona, here at the store. Naturally I came home and looked her up on the internet at www.soniadanowski.com where I was mesmerized by a long list of accolades, the most recent one of which was awarded by the American Library Association. Incidentally, Sonja’s books are available in English for those of you who may be unfamiliar with her work. Oh…..did I say this book was my final choice? 


I actually bought two books by this incredibly talented author and illustrator. 



Schleifmuhlgasse 6-8A-1040 WieN