10 German children's books classics you can read in English

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

A good witch and a coffee grinder robber

A giant of German children's lit, Otfried Preussler wrote for kids aged six and up. "The Little Witch" tells of a girl learning the hard way what it means to be a "good" witch. In "The Robber Hotzenplotz," a man steals a grandma's coffee grinder - and two boys set off to capture him. This tale also features the wizard Petrosilius Zwackelmann. Say his name aloud - that's the kind of story this is.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

'The NeverEnding Story' and beyond

If the movie "The NeverEnding Story" thrilled you during your youth, you can - like the hero of that tale - immerse in Michael Ende's masterpiece that inspired the film. Following the movie's success, his other works were also translated. "Momo" deals with time - and criticizes efficiency and stress. "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver" is a beloved classic of German children's literature.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

Off to paradise with tiger and bear

In "The Trip to Panama," a bear and a tiger lead a dreamy and lazy life - until a wooden crate comes floating on a nearby river. "Panama" is written on it, and it smells like bananas. Intrigued, the bear and tiger set off to find this wonderful smelling country. Their long and winding quest leads them to the best place on Earth: home. Janosch's imagery and surreal logic charm young and old alike.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

Germany's favorite dinosaur

A well-known little dinosaur in Germany, the urmel, hatches from an egg in "Urmel From The Ice." The story is one Max Kruse's most famous works, thanks to its TV adaptation by the Augsburger Puppenkiste (picture). It also inspired the animated film "Impy's Island." The author's other famous work, "Lion on the Loose," is a merry adventure following an escaped wild animal through the city.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

Escaping the Nazis

Each of the main characters remains a safe distance away from evil in "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" (1971), by Judith Kerr. It is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old, Anna, whose family flees Germany just as the Nazis take power. There is no war in this novel; it hasn't happened yet. But the story remains as relevant today as it ever has been: By the end, Anna and her family are refugees.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

Humorous adventures in realist Berlin

Heading to Berlin? Pick up a copy of "Emil and the Detectives" by Erich Kästner. It'll take you (and your children) back to the German capital as it was in the late 1920s. After that, try another of Kästner's stories: In "Lottie and Lisa," separated twin girls meet each other for the first time at a summer camp. Decades later, it was adapted to the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster "The Parent Trap."

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

Max and Moritz

Many kindergartens and primary schools in Germany are named "Max and Moritz" after the prank-pulling duo in Wilhelm Busch's classic book. Note, however, that the book's pranks - and its moral compass - are firmly set in 1865. One example (spoiler alert!): After the boys' final prank fails, the two are ground up into pieces and fed to ducks. That's it. The end. No sequel.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

The consequences of misbehaviour

Another sure way to traumatize your kids is "Struwwelpeter." In two of these 10 "moral" stories, a child dies; in another, a kid's thumb is cut off. At least some of the stories are lighter. One involves "Fidgety Philipp," whose dinner table antics spoil every meal. Even 150 years later, his name is used to scold children who can't sit still: "Don't be such a Zappel-Philipp!"

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

The power of books

The "Inkheart" trilogy was published in the midst of the "Harry Potter" hurricane but still went on to become a success. Set in contemporary times, Cornelia Funke's main character in the story, a 12-year-old named Meggie, has the ability to take things out of books and make them come to life. It's something of a family trick. But it wouldn't be a good story unless that power came at a price.

10 German children's books classics you can read in English

A city of books awaits

Zamonia is a fictional continent where funny stories happen - and the name of a series by Walter Moers. "The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear" is a good introduction, but it's OK to start with the fourth book, "The City of Dreaming Books." Often, the author describes a character, waits a while for the mental picture to cement, and then - surprise! - unveils a wacky illustration of his creation.

Discover these classics of Germany's children's literature. Beware: Some of them do not end as well as Disney's fairy tales.

Breaking into the children's books market nowadays is a bit like winning the lottery when it comes to many budding authors' aspirations. You get to run wild with your imagination telling narratives that inspire kids and have parents spending money on sequels, merchandise and anything really that will keep the little ones happy.

We are Germany | 22.05.2015

But the markets vary from country to country. A bestseller in one region may not find a publisher somewhere else. Some just get lost in translation, while others don't speak to the particular sensitivities of a culture. A beloved children's book character in one country may virtually be nobody somewhere else.

German children's books have a long-standing history and tend to be passed on from one generation to the next. While many fairytales originate from Germany, particularly from the work of the Brothers Grimm, storytellers have long moved on and created some unique gems for German kids, which everyone in the country will either know from their childhood or relate to as a parent.

From "Max and Moritz" to Cornelia Funke's "Inkheart," the gallery above offers a selection of some of the most popular books of German children's literature, old and new. 

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