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Andreas Steinhöfel / Melanie Garanin
A Shlimazel in the Mishpocha

Andreas Steinhöfel and Melanie Garanin have produced a moving and humorous graphic novel from a TV series about anti-Semitism and racism at school.

By Holger Moos

Steinhöfel / Garanin: Völlig meschugge?! © Carlsen Benny, Charly and Hamid are best friends despite all their differences. Benny is very athletic but also very smart while Charly is rather unathletic, a vegetarian and environmentalist. Hamid came to Germany from Syria as a refugee in 2015 and has a talent for drawing. He’s picked on by his older braggart brother and by classmates close to obnoxious Lennart’s gang.

This is the initial situation in the graphic novel Völlig meschugge?! (Totally meshuga?!) by Andreas Steinhöfel, multi-award-winning author of children’s and young adult books, and illustrator Melanie Garanin. The graphic novel is based on the script of the TV mini-series of the same name by Andreas Steinhöfel, Klaus Döring and Adrian Bickenbach.

A Star of David causes trouble

Everything changes when Benny’s beloved grandfather dies and bequeaths his grandson a Star of David necklace, which he wears from now on. All of a sudden, everyone knows Benny is Jewish. No one knew before; his parents were secretive about it for fear that he would become the target of anti-Semitic hostilities.

And indeed, Benny is now confronted with anti-Semitic slogans. It’s also a shock for Hamid: His friend, a Jew?! Their friendship falls apart. After all, Hamid has been taught that the Jews are to blame for the problems of many people in the Arab world. His older brother in particular has drilled this into his head again and again.

Then Hamid is suspected of being the perpetrator of a series of mobile phone thefts at their school, thus plunging the three friends into a quagmire of mistrust and prejudice.

Straight talk

The German Academy for Children’s and Youth Literature chose the graphic novel as Children’s Book of the Month in August 2022. Steinhöfel and Garanin, they write, succeed in “portraying the children’s relationships in words and images without slipping into didacticism. They approach the subject with sensitivity and thus emphasise the main points in a new way, not only for comic books.”

Despite the serious subject matter, the story is written and drawn in a relaxed tone and line, and with plenty of humour. Garanin’s varied, lively drawing style contributes decisively to this. Some things seem scribbled, some pages contain lots of little scenes, other scenes fill one or even two pages. Fortunately, when a dramatic ending looms, straight talk comes to the rescue.

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Andreas Steinhöfel / Melanie Garanin (Ill.): Völlig meschugge?!
Hamburg: Carlsen, 2022. 288 p.
ISBN: 978-3-551-79609-7