New Children's books What Children always wanted to know about Sex and Grammar
A recently-published children’s book shows family conversations about sex to be difficult, but also funny at times. Other recent publications feature robots at school, environmental protection, Death Junior and German grammar.
By Holger Moos
Even today, family conversations about sex are still a delicate matter, particularly when three generations are involved. While hippie-generation Grandma and Grandad have pretty laid-back views, Dad in particular gets more and more embarrassed while explaining to his younger daughter what sex is all about – using an awkward plug-and-socket analogy. All he had actually been trying to do was to talk to his older daughter and her boyfriend about first love and contraception. In Der Tag, an dem Papa ein heikles Gespräch führen wollte (The day Dad wanted to have an awkward conversation), Marc-Uwe Kling successfully combines sitcom with sex education.
Kai Pannen‘s Andro, streng geheim! Fehlermeldung Schule(Andro, top secret! Error: school) is the first in a new children’s book series. In this hilarious school story, the hero, smuggled undercover into a school, is an Artificial Intelligence Android 3.0-m robot. It’s mission: to show it can successfully get to know people and collect friendship points – after all, robots are taking over the world soon, right? Unless it can pass as an ordinary human being, it will be switched off. The story’s humour is based on the fact that it is clueless about what is going on at the school, takes everything literally, and has to ask its secret computer for help. Needless to say, there’s also a tough girl who eventually recognises the robot for what it is, yet stands by it. The layout is fun too.
THOUGHT-PROVOKING AND HUMOROUS
A terminally-ill boy is so scared of dying that he does not dare to live, even in phases when he is feeling well. Enter: a boisterous girl, who tells him outright that she is Death Junior and has to learn about the meaning of life as a human being in preparation for a death exam. The way in which the two of them become closer, comic at times, and the boy’s activities before finding his way back to life are special and unusual. In Anne Gröger’s Hey, ich bin der kleine Tod. Aber du kannst auch Frida zu mir sagen, (Hey, I’m Death Junior... But you can also call me Frida), the enduring theme of death in children’s and youth literature becomes an appeal for life. Casual, offhand, well worth reading.
InPeri Scholz rettet die Welt... oder auch nicht. (Peri Scholz saves the world … or perhaps not), Christina Erbertz presents an ironically witty take on environmental protection and the various motives and intentions for sustainable living that define the current zeitgeist. The story centres on twelve-year-old Peri, who inadvertently becomes a campaigner for plastic waste reduction, attracting considerable public and media attention. In the process, she meets fanatics, charlatans, hangers-on and opponents. The humorous scenes are thought-provoking, without defaming the idea of environmental protection.
MAKING GRAMMAR FUN
Susanna und Johannes Rieder have written a special grammar book for children: Hunde im Futur. Eine Grammatik in Bildern. (Dogs in the future. An illustrated grammar). Language is conveyed with verve and enthusiasm, making it great fun to pick up basic grammar, flap by flap. Reduction and visualisation are the principles of this book’s design. The individual topics are presented using very little text and delightful illustrations, putting the material in a nutshell. This colourful book features flap mechanisms, surprise effects and a clear structure. If you suffer from grammar anxiety and are struggling with basic grammatical concepts, but still have to learn them, this book is for you. It simply has to be interesting when a topic like relative pronouns becomes the subject of a graphic novel detective story.