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New Children's books
Gripping, quirky, moving

New children’s books tell gripping, quirky stories, but also address serious subjects, such as pandemics and war.

By Holger Moos

Andres / Töpperwien: Inspektor Dilemma © Beltz & Gelberg It is usually quiet on the tranquil island of Sandig. But then the parking ticket machines in the new carpark explode. The rather out-of-it Inspector Ole Dilemma and his pooch Komma have an exciting time ahead, discovering a crime very different from the one initially suspected. The children’s detective story Inspektor Dilemma. Es fliegt was durch die Luft (Inspector Dilemma. Something is flying through the air) by Kristina Andres, illustrated by Meike Töpperwien, is light-hearted, full of humour and exciting, with a few environmental issues thrown in. The “humour is just right for the target group“, says Katharina Mahrenholtz of NDR Kultur, quoting an enthusiastic seven-year-old test reader: “It was really exciting and funny ... but not scary. It didn’t frighten you.“

Ludwig / Herold: Ellie & Oleg – außer uns ist keiner hier © Klett Kinderbuch The pandemic arrived in children’s literature in Ellie & Oleg – außer uns ist keiner hier (Ellie and Oleg – There’s Nobody Here but Us) by Katja Ludwig, illustrated by Heike Herold. Twelve-year-old Ellie and her eight-year-old stepbrother Oleg are part of a patchwork family. The siblings live in the city, but there’s a pandemic now and the schools are shut. That’s why they have moved to the country, to a dilapidated house somewhere near the border with Poland. The grown-ups and other siblings are planning to join them there. But when evening comes, Ellie and Oleg are still on their own. On top of that, Ellie has lost her cell phone. So they are cut off from the outside world and have to cope on their own. Ellie & Oleg is an adventure trip, a kind of Brandenburg Robinson Crusoe. The German Youth Literature Award 2023 jury gave the following reasons for nominating this book in the children’s book category: “The narrative tone very precisely conveys the narrator’s spirited alertness and bravely controlled despair. Katja Ludwig, supported by Heike Herold’s vignettes, creates some funny moments. But never too funny – the situation is too serious for that. In the apocalyptic setting of this discerningly narrated children’s book, that is something that is never forgotten for a moment.“

M for mental cinema

Esch: Boris, Babette und lauter Skelette (Ausschnitt) © Kibitz In her children’s comic Boris, Babette und lauter Skelette (Boris, Babette and Plenty of Skeletons) Tanja Esch tells a charming story of idiosyncratic self-discovery. Babette, bought as a pet years ago, eludes definition, not only by its owner Lynette. The feline creature is the size of a toddler, has glossy yellow fur, walks on two legs and can talk, albeit with a speech impediment. Babette also loves watching television and is loves it when the atmosphere is really creepy. When 16-year-old Lynette goes to England for a year, her younger neighbour Boris says he will look after Babette, but has no idea what he is letting himself in for. The whole situation is complicated by the fact that he has to keep Babette a secret from his squeaky-clean parents. The story ends in a “cheerfully chaotic hustle and bustle of strenuous care work”. Babette‘s unrequited desire to belong moves and makes demands on Boris – and with him, on readers. This was also something that impressed the German Youth Literature Award 2023 jury, leading to Boris, Babette und lauter Skelette also being nominated in the children’s book category. The graphic implementation comes in for special praise: “Tanja Esch‘s drawings are impressive for their reduced but precise style. Loudly-coloured clear sets of panels tell the racy, humorous story of a curiously charming exceptional character’s path to self-discovery.“

Mohl / Kirschner: Wilde Radtour mit Velociraptorin © Mairisch Another quirky story is Wilde Radtour mit Velociraptorin (Wild bike ride with a lady velociraptor) by Nils Mohl, illustrated by Halina Kirschner. Suffering from writer’s block, the narrator, a writer, goes on a bike ride with a quick-witted lady dinosaur. Their fast-paced outing is illustrated by wild, brightly-coloured pictures, with an alphabet at the side of the pages explaining words that come up in the text (especially for bike lovers). Said Mathias Ziegler of Wiener Zeitung: The book is C for crazy, but also P for poetry and a bit of M for mental cinema. And Halina Kirschner‘s brightly coloured dinosaur pictures are full of H for humour. And, yes, overall, it’s maybe a bit E for educational.“

Grandson tells Grandpa about the war

Drvenkar: Kai zieht in den Krieg und kommt mit Opa zurück © Hanser Another topic has come to the fore again. Regrettably, it must be said in this case, because the topic is war, or wars around the world. In his new young adult novel, award-winning children’s and young adult writer Zoran Drvenkar tells the story of a long conversation between a grandfather suffering from progressive dementia and his grandson. Following the conversation, the grandson sees his grandfather in a new light. Kai zieht in den Krieg und kommt mit Opa zurück (When Kai went to war and came back with Grandpa) is the title of this book, which won the Luchs Award of the Month in March 2023. It is a moving multi-generational novel and a poetic trip down memory lane, with flashbacks and imaginings: “By recounting to the hundred-year-old the tall stories his grandpa had once told him, the eleven-year-old stirs his grandfather’s true, lost memories of the horrors of the war.“

Schwieger/ Ablang: Kinder unterm Hakenkreuz © dtv In her children’s and young adult non-fiction book Kinder unterm Hakenkreuz (Children Under the Swastika) Frank Schwieger and illustrator Friederike Ablang tell ten stories presenting children’s perceptions of National Socialism. The time span is from the beginning of the persecution of the Jews in 1933, which eleven-year-old Erna experiences close up, until the end of the war in 1945, when Jana, another eleven-year-old, manages to escape from a concentration camp. The book also tells of the persecution of Jewish families in Poland, the Netherlands and Austria. But it also tells of spectacular rescue missions of Jewish children in France and the successful escape of almost all Danish Jews to Sweden. These lively reports are accompanied by photographs and political information.


Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Kristina Andres / Meike Töpperwien (Ill): Inspektor Dilemma. Es fliegt was durch die Luft
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2023. 154 p.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75717-3 (from 7 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Zoran Drvenkar: Kai zieht in den Krieg und kommt mit Opa zurück
München: Hanser, 2023. 159 p.
ISBN: 978-3-446-27594-2 (from 11 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Tanja Esch: Boris, Babette und lauter Skelette
Hamburg: Kibitz, 2022. 151 p.
ISBN: 978-3-948690-17-5 (from 8 years)

Katja Ludwig / Heike Herold (Ill.): Ellie & Oleg – außer uns ist keiner hier
Leipzig: Klett Kinderbuch, 2022. 240 p.
ISBN 978-3-95470-275-6 (from 9 years)

Nils Mohl / Halina Kirschner (Ill.): Wilde Radtour mit Velociraptorin
Hamburg: Mairisch Verlag, 2023. 62 S.
ISBN: 978-3-948722-27-2 (from 4 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Frank Schwieger/ Friederike Ablang (Illustrationen): Kinder unterm Hakenkreuz - Wie wir den Nationalsozialismus erlebten
München: dtv, 2023. 287 p.
ISBN: 978-3-423-76440-7 (from 9 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.