New Children's books
For Readers with No Humour Deficits
In the latest children’s books, we read not only of first love but also about a boy who feels like a girl and how normal it is to be “disabled.” And then there’s a comic book about a childhood in the 1970s and a comic book with poems.
By Holger Moos
In the children’s novel Die beste Bahn meines Lebens (The Best Lap of My Life), Anne Becker tells a story of two people who like each other even though they are very different. Jan is poor in maths and a miserable reader, but he can swim really well. He tries to keep his weaknesses secret. Hippie Flo, who lives in a neighbouring house and keeps chickens, is his classmate and quite talented in mathematics. She records everything using infographics. Anne Becker’s debut was immediately nominated for the German Youth Literature Award 2020 in the children’s book category. The jury found this book about first love “insightful and extraordinarily funny. It is an intelligent, pleasurable read that takes a warm-hearted and at the same time candid look at that strange time between childhood and puberty.”
Limitless normalityThe book Alle behindert! 25 spannende und bekannte Beeinträchtigungen in Wort und Bild (Everyone’s Disabled! 25 Exciting and Familiar Disabilities in Words and Pictures) by Horst Klein and Monika Osberghaus expands the limits of what is considered normal. The book, designed like an autograph book, presents very different types of impairments. Anna has Down’s syndrome, Mareike is highly gifted, Julien is the biggest show-off in the world, Max has cerebral palsy. Other children are blind, deaf, or have heart defects. “Many children tell about what makes them special. Readers can learn more about impairments. Anyone who can keep a straight face must have a ‘humour deficit’! It’s an authentic look at everything except normality” (Deutschlandfunk – Books for Young Readers – The Month’s 7 Best January 2020).
The title, Der Katze ist es ganz egal (The Cat Doesn’t Care) sounds like a harmless cat story, but Franz Orghandl’s children’s book is about something completely different. Nine-year-old Leo would like to be called Jennifer, and the only one who doesn’t care is the cat. The adults, on the other hand, don’t react with as much composure. But Orghandl doesn’t tell of Jennifer’s self-discovery as a transgender problem story, but with plenty of humour, which is also conveyed by Theresa Strozyk’s ingenious illustrations. The result is an “enlightening children’s book in the best sense, which deals very sensitively with a weighty issue. Children won’t be overwhelmed, but at the same time no words are minced,” according to Sylvia Schwab on Deutschlandfunk Kultur.
Children’s comic booksIn Manno! Alles genau so in echt passiert (Man! It All Really Happened) Anke Kuhl remembers her childhood in a small town in Hesse in the 1970s. Drawn like a comic, the book tells some episodes from the family life of little Anke – from a world that still seems idyllic, but is showing some frayed edges. “Funny and deeply sad and a lot in between. A touching childhood story for young and old” (Deutschlandfunk – Books for Young Readers – The Month’s 7 Best March 2020).
The volume Lyrik-Comics – Gedichte Bilder Klänge für Kinder in den besten Jahren (Poetry Comics – Poems Pictures Sounds for Children in their Prime) edited by Stefanie Schweizer proves that poems can also be turned into comics. Nineteen poems by modern and classic poets such as Ernst Jandl, Mascha Kaléko, Christian Morgenstern, and Joachim Ringelnatz are interpreted here as comics in a coherent and surprisingly new way. The poems were selected to suit the target group. Six-year-olds, but also older children from 10 to 12 years of age can discover poetry. Lyrik-Comics was also nominated for the German Youth Literature Award 2020 in the children’s book category. The jury wrote enthusiastically, “Editor Stefanie Schweizer has succeeded in creating a small masterpiece with this collection ... This innovative Gesamtkunstwerk playfully makes poetry a pleasure for children to touch and experience.”
Anne Becker: Die beste Bahn meines Lebens.
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2019. 175 S.
Horst Klein (Illustrationen) und Monika Osberghaus (Text): Alle behindert! 25 spannende und bekannte Beeinträchtigungen in Wort und Bild .
Leipzig: Klett Kinderbuch, 2019. 30 S.
Anke Kuhl: Manno! Alles genau so in echt passiert.
Leipzig: Klett Kinderbuch, 2020. 128 S.
Franz Orghandl und Theresa Strozyk (Illustrationen): Der Katze ist es ganz egal.
Leipzig: Klett Kinderbuch, 2020. 94 S.
Lyrik-Comics. Gedichte Bilder Klänge – für Kinder in den besten Jahren (herausgegeben von Stefanie Schweizer)
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2019. 112 S.