Härtling, who began writing poems, essays, novels and stories in 1953, published his first children's book in 1970: "Und das ist die ganze Familie" (And that's the whole family). It represented a new departure in children's literature both in terms of style and themes, and met with considerable attention. In his second book, "Das war der Hirbel" he again took a critical view of society. Since then he has published numerous books for children and young adults that have received many awards and have been translated into more than 20 languages.
Peter Härtling was awarded a special prize in recognition of his complete works for children on the occasion of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis awards in 2001 and the Deutscher Bücherpreis in 2003 for his life work.