Kids Read: Germany

We have been reading books from Germany for the past few weeks. I was waiting for some of them to come in from the library and abroad, and am working on figuring out our new back-to-school schedule. We also just love Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so we lingered reading them. You can look further down this post for more about that.

Floris Books, a Scotland-based children’s book publisher has a variety of contemporary books written by German authors. A few of the books featured this week came from their catalog. If you’re looking for children’s books by European authors, including those in translation, I definitely suggest you check them out.

This week we are also enjoying the posts and conversations happening over at World Kid Lit , which hosted World Kid Lit Month in September. You can search their website by country to find books written by authors, or translated from that language. This is what popped up when I searched for Germany. What books did you read from around the world in September?

If you know of any other great picture books set in, or about Germany, please let me know so I can do a follow up post!


Kid Reads

The Visitor

“It was a long time since Elise had read to anyone.  The boy wanted to hear every story in the book.”

The Visitor, by German author/illustrator Antje Damm, translated by Sally-Ann Spencer, published by Gecko Press, is the story of Elise, a woman who never goes out because she is frightened of nearly everything. When a paper airplane flies in her window one morning, followed by a young boy, her whole world becomes a lot more colorful.

I shared this book with my 4th graders this week. One of the girls let out an audible sigh and “awwwww” at the end. While the text is sparse and simple, the message conveyed through the illustrations alone is powerful. I asked my students what they thought the author’s message or purpose for writing the book was. They decided the book was about friendship, allowing others in, and togetherness bringing joy. They quickly caught on that the colors spreading as the story went on were representing joy.

The illustrations in this book are unlike anything I have seen in a picture book before. They are simple, but have dimension and so beautifully help enhance the message of the story.

I borrowed this book from our local library. 

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

“Sometimes I think that I am like a summer bird, waiting to fly. “

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, by Margarita Engle & Julie Paschkis, published by Henry Holt & Company, is a picture book biography of Maria Merian, a German girl born in 1647 who disagreed with tradition, which said butterflies and moths came from the mud as if by magic. The story explains how butterflies and moths actually hatch from caterpillars, and goes through the life cycle. It is told from Maria’s perspective, which I feel helps young children become more engaged in the story.  

For two bug-loving children like my two girls, this was the perfect pick.   They couldn’t believe kids even hundreds of years ago were collecting bugs in jars and studying them in the grass just like they do. They were inspired by how Maria drew butterflies and moths, and made some butterfly art of their own. 

I borrowed this book from our local library.

The Sand Elephant

“The sand animals leapt and danced to the thundering roar, until they mixed in a wild, swirling rush…”

The Sand Elephant, by German author Rinna Hermann, and German illustrator Sanne Dufft, translated by Johnathan Drake, published in English by Floris Books, is the imaginative story of Paul, who, while sitting alone in the sandbox, finds himself drawing an elephant in the sand. As he dozes nestled under the elephant’s trunk, he finds the elephant has come to life and Paul is lifted onto his back. They are off on a fun, sand-filled adventure.  But what will happen to the elephant and other sand animals when it rains?

After reading this book at bedtime, my little ones immediately wanted to play with the kinetic sand we keep nearby for quiet time. This would be a great book to have nearby on a trip to the beach, or to a playground with a sand pit. 
This was a fun book to read aloud because of the onomatopoeias, alliteration, and cute little poems scattered throughout the text that enhance the storytelling. There are so many rich images enhanced by the vocabulary used and the detailed, dream-like illustrations.

This book was sent to me in the spring by Publisher Spotlight and Floris Books for review. All opinions are my own.

In the Land of Fairies

“Some fairies like moonlight and the cool dark. At night, they flutter with the moths, watching over all the creatures who are awake when we are asleep.”

In the Land of Fairies, by German author/illustrator Daniela Drescher, published by Floris Books, is my 4 1/2 year old daughter’s dream come true. She is into all things fairy right now, so when this book appeared, she immediately fell in love.  In the Land of Fairies follows a group of fairies through the year as they welcome and encourage the things that make each season unique.

In the Land of Fairies was Drescher’s first published book, published in 2004.  She has gone on to write and publish more than 40 books. The paintings she did for this one are beautiful and help the reader really feel the seasons as they change. The pages featuring autumn are really making me look forward to the leaves changing colors, warm sweaters, and cool nights. 

This book was sent to me in the spring by Publisher Spotlight and Floris Books for review. All opinions are my own.

Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest

“But he was very strict about one thing. ‘Dulcinea, you must never go into the forest. Promise me. That’s where the witch lives…’ ‘Have you seen her?’ Dulcinea asked.’No one has ever seen the witch!’ said her father. ‘But everyone knows she’s there'”

Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest, by Swedish-German author/illustrator Ole Konnecke, translated by Shelley Tanaka, and published by Gecko Press, is a delightful, modern fairytale with a strong heroine who must save her loving father who was turned into a tree by an evil witch.  Dulcinea uses her wits, and a little dishonesty, to combat the witch and reverse the spell her father is under.

My girls at home are at the perfect age for these heavily illustrated chapter books that have been coming onto the children’s literary scene recently. They are longer than a typical picture book, but shorter than a novel, and include illustrations on every page, which my girls love. We especially enjoyed this story because of the fiesty, strong-willed young girl who must set off into the forbidden forest to find the witch, despite her fears. My 2 1/2 year old loves a good witch story for some reason, even though she’s usually peeking out from behind my arms while I’m reading. She begged me to read this book 3 times in a row when it arrived. I had no problem humoring her with this fun, seasonal story.

I used this book this morning in my 4th grade classroom to review making predictions. There are a few points in the story, where on my first read, I was left wondering what was going to happen, or I made a prediction about what was going to happen that turned out not to be the case.

I received this book from Publisher Spotlight and Gecko Press in exchange for an honest review. 

The Collector of Moments

“‘One invisible and unique path leads into every picture,’ May said once, ‘and the artist has to find just that one path.  He can’t show the picture too soon, or he might lose that path forever.'”

The Collector of Moments, by German author/illustrator Quint Bucholz, translated by Peter F. Neumeyer, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is about a boy and his artist friend who spend their afternoons quietly absorbed in the artist’s studio, Max, the artist, painting, and the boy reading or doing homework. When the artist leaves, he asks the boy to take care of his home, and allows him to see the pictures he has never been permitted to see before. On the surface, each picture is of a familiar scene, but when you look deeper there are fantastical surprises drawing you into the scene. Max learns a lot that summer as he spends a lot of time staring at each picture and having many adventures in each one. After reading this book, and spending time looking at the pictures, you will never look at everyday things the same way again.

This oversized book has a lot to offer; more to offer than you can get to in one reading, or in one sitting. My mind has wandered back to the story multiple times after reading it.  I would definitely recommend this book for upper elementary aged kids and above because of the length, the richness of the language, and the format where the illustrations are not on every page.

I purchased this book for this project, and I’m so glad I did. It’s one we will revisit from time to time to unlock more of its secrets.

If you are going to buy and of these books for your home library, please consider using my Bookshop.org affiliate link. Bookshop.org supports local book stores with every purchase you make.


Fairy Tales

I had never put much stock in fairy tales. However, after listening to The Literary Life Podcast’s episode on Fairy Tales a few years ago, I began doing more research and started thinking about them in a new way. I have a series planned on fairy tales around the world over the next few months, but I didn’t think I could leave Germany without at least mentioning Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Some of the most popular tales that have been turned into children’s picture books are: Hansel and Gretel, Rumplestiltskin (a favorite in our house), The Pied Piper, The Frog Prince, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Town Musicians of Bremen, Rapunzel, and The Elves and the Shoemaker.

Please read these before reading them to your children. Some versions may include things you are not comfortable sharing with your children. Like did you know the witch in Rapunzel throws the prince out of the tower after she discovers Rapunzel is pregnant? I guess Disney forgot to include that part đŸ™‚

I have been reading The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales by Sheldon Cashdan, for the past few months. It is giving me a lot to think about. It’s based on the premiss that the fairy tales help children deal with psychological conflicts and help them experience good and evil in a safe way.

Note: While the Grimm Brothers were from Germany, not all of their stories originated there. The Grimm brothers collected them (and changed some over the years) from all over Germany, but the stories that were told and retold orally may not have been first told in Germany. Where they truly originated is not always known.

Resources

Little World Wanderers has a free unit study for Germany. I highly recommend you check out her shop to see what countries she has units for. Her units all include information about the country, a booklist, projects, crafts, links to science concepts, geography study, recipes, a folktale, and songs. I take bits and pieces from her unit studies to use throughout the week when we have time now that we are back at school.


Food

Both my maternal great grandmother, and my husband’s paternal great grand parents came from Germany, so we both grew up eating a few recipes that have been passed down through the generations. They never turn out quite how our grandparents used to make them, but it’s fun trying. On Sunday night I made my in-laws and my little family Octoberfest bratwurst in a soft pretzel roll, sweet and sour cabbage, and German potato salad. They were all delicious, and it was fun to make some foods I don’t make too often. I wish I remembered to take some pictures for you! You can find a few of the recipes on my Pinterest page linked below.


I’d love to hear what books, projects, artists, music, and other fun things you’d recommend from Germany. Email me, message me, or comment/DM on Instagram.

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