Germany celebrates 'Read Aloud Day'

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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.

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'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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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!"

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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.

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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.

From the floor of the Frankfurt stock exchange to the concert hall of the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie — hundreds of thousands of Germans read aloud or listened to children's books to help develop a lifelong love of reading.

Over 173,000 people in Germany celebrated National Read Aloud Day on Friday, the event organizers said, setting a new record for the nationwide participatory event aimed at getting children excited about reading and promoting lifelong reading skills. 

The Foundation for Reading, one of the day's co-organizers along with German newspaper "Die Zeit" and the foundation of the German railway, Deutsche Bahn, wished "all those who are reading aloud, as well as all listeners, a wonderful Read Aloud Day!"

Eager ears could listen to stories not only in schools and kindergartens, but also in the German Football Museum in Dortmund, the Frankfurt stock exchange, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg.


Deutsche Bahn head Richard Lutz pointed out that it only takes 15 minutes a day to get children excited about reading for themselves later in life. "Studies show that it is never too early to read aloud," he said. 

Read more: German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch receives top award for children's literature

In 2016, an estimated 130,000 people read aloud, prominent politicians among them. This year, however, due to ongoing exploratory talks to designate a new coalition government, fewer federal politicians took part in the event, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Reading said. Still, regional and local politicians showed themselves to be just as adept at reading storybooks as making parliamentary speeches.

The regional chairman for the Social Democrats in Schleswig-Holstein, Ralf Stegner, read aloud to a "very awake class" at the local public library in the town of Bordesholm.

Twitter users shared photos or memories of their favorite children's books. You can check out more classic German children's books in the picture gallery above.

National Read Aloud Day began in 2004 with just under 2,000 people sharing stories aloud. It takes place every year on the third Sunday in November.

The Tiger Duck is 'rubbish'...

... Janosch once said of the little yellow and black striped toy duck on wheels, beloved by children all over the world. The artist doesn't even own a Tiger Duck. He says he simply doesn't need one. The famous German children's book author and illustrator plans on a good dinner, wine and listening to music on the radio to celebrate his 85th birthday at home on the island of Tenerife.

Best pals

More than 300 Janosch books have been published in 40 languages. A series of films feature the most popular characters - Little Tiger, Little Bear and their Tiger Duck - and many kids have cuddly stuffed animal versions of their favorite picture book heroes. The Filmpark Babelsberg theme park in Potsdam also has a Panamaland, featuring the trio.

Onscreen adventures

"If you have a friend who can find mushrooms, you don't have to be afraid of anything, do you, Tiger?" Little Bear asks his best pal in one of the writer's most popular books, "The Trip to Panama." Janosch's tale about two best friends who decide to go to Panama to find the land of their dreams was made into a film several times (above, a scene from the 2006 movie).

Best friends and a simple life

"The Trip to Panama" made Janosch world-famous when it was published in the late 1970s. In the story, Little Tiger and his friend the scruffy bear end up finding the land of their dreams right on their own doorstep. The two characters are part of many Janosch stories - tales that always revolve around lasting friendship and enjoying the simple things in life.

Rough childhood

Janosch illustrates picture books, but he also paints on a larger scale. The above work for an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum Koblenz is entitled "Using the power of thought, my father lures a blue bird into a trap." It was based on an unhappy memory: When he was drunk, Janosch's birdcatcher father regularly beat up his son.

Janosch and women

Here's Janosch holding "My wife with curls." Asked why the women he paints are usually quite ugly, he once said perhaps that's because he doesn't like women - except his wife Ines "who is intelligent." It turns out that his father wasn't the only one who beat him: his grandmother often abused him as well. Proceeds from the sale of the above artwork went to a children's charity.

All-time classics

A witty homage to the children's book author: Just in time for his 85th birthday, Janosch's best stories, poems and illustrations have been compiled under the title: "Perhaps everything I say is nonsense."

cmb/eg (dpa, AFP, KNA)

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