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Jana Steingässer
Our wonderful world and its climate crisis

A journey across our breathtakingly beautiful world that is currently going up in flames narrated from the perspective of a 12-year-old. Jana Steingässer’s book, turns out to be a brilliant and informative work of non-fiction about climate change for children and teenagers.

By Victoria Engels

Steingässer: Paulas Reise © Oetinger Paula is not a fictional character. She is the main character in the book “Paulas Reise” and the author’s eldest daughter. Like Paula, the backdrop is not fictional either – climate change is real. We consume much more than we need and as a society have developed a practice that is harmful to the environment. With Paulas Reise oder wie ein Huhn uns zu Kilmaschützern machte” (“Paula’s journey or how a chicken turned us into environmentalists”) Jana Steingässer presents an impressively complex non-fiction book for children and teenagers, which aims to question precisely those practices; not on a global scale, but on a personal, day-to-day level. The journey that starts with a chicken laying an egg in December – biologically a completely wrong time of year for this to happen – ends with the whole family, from Dad Jens to Mum Jana down to all the children, Paula, Hannah, Mio and Frieda – questioning their own habits and routines. 

Enjoyable stories and impressive photographs

In between the two moments, starting the trip and changing their lifestyle, Paula’s family undertake a journey: first to Greenland, then on foot over the Alps, further to South Africa, Albania and finally back to their village in Germany. Paula’s endearing, first-person narrative is interspersed with informative inserts explaining relevant phenomena, terms and links. Impressive photographs and amusing stories add as much to the light-heartedness of the book as do the sporadic appearances of the above-mentioned chicken. Reading Paulas Reise evokes two main feelings: next to a fair amount of wanderlust, for new places and unknown people, the urge to change your own lifestyle to that of a more environmentally friendly way of living grows.

Talking about climate protection whilst travelling the world?

What might seem like a legitimate question at first, easily loses its validity when considering the intention behind the book as well as the way this family choose to live their day-to-day family life. What stands as the narration of a personal story in Paulas Reise should in the end be seen as a meaningful contribution to a more global discourse, in which children (must) play a significant role as initiators and spokespeople for a drastic rethinking of our personal lifestyles. On a side note, every part of this book is completely biodegradable – you could even add it to your compost.

A stimulating read

Paulas Reise was written for children from the age of ten; however, thanks to its contrasting elements – simplicity and complexity,  being light-hearted and earnest, the wanderlust and the focus on personal day-to-day life – this charming travel report is a stimulating read for both youngsters and adults alike, whether they already consider themselves to be environmentalists or would like to be such in the future.

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Jana Steingässer (Autorin), Jens Steingässer (Illustrator): Paulas Reise oder Wie ein Huhn uns zu Klimaschützern machte
Hamburg: Oetinger, 2019. 144 S.
ISBN: 978-3-7891-0965-2