Hypersonic speed and chain stitches

Realistic yet fantastical, full of adventure, exciting and informative: all of these attributes apply to our small selection of new children’s books.

By Holger Moos

Becker: Luftmaschentage
© Beltz & Gelberg
Anne Becker studied special needs education and was nominated for the German Children’s Literature Award for her first children’s novel Die beste Bahn meines Lebens (The Best Length of My Life, 2019), in which the main character suffers from dyslexia. In Luftmaschentage (Chain Stitch Days), her new book for children, the first-person narrator Matea has an anxiety disorder and hardly speaks to anyone outside her family. Until a new girl arrives in her class. Ricci, whose family is dysfunctional, is the complete opposite of Matea. She doesn’t give two hoots what anyone thinks of her and is never short of a cool retort. She approaches shy Matea without prejudice and helps her find a way out of her isolation. With great sensitivity, Becker tells this story of an unequal friendship that has to survive quite a few tests of endurance. She succeeds in making a convincing plea for more understanding and tolerance.


Scherz / Waechter: Sieben Tage Mo
© Thienemann

Oliver Scherz’s children’s book Sieben Tage Mo (Seven Days Mo) is about two very different brothers. Karl is at the end of his tether: four days a week he has to take care of his twin, who has been disabled since birth. And he always seems to draw the short straw. His mother works as a nurse and his father is abroad. Karl fluctuates between aggression and love for his brother. He doesn’t even let on to his classmates that he has a brother and vents his frustration at school by playing up. Scherz paints a psychologically accurate picture of the disabled boy’s behaviour and the way those around him react. Everything starts to improve when Karl meets a girl who comes round to his house and is immediately adopted by and accepts his brother, not to mention his football friends. And when his mother realizes that too much is being asked of him. The book, which is illustrated by Philipp Waechter, won the Luchs des Monats prize – which is awarded monthly – in October 2023. Sieben Tage ohne Mo is lauded for its “unpretentious story, which intentionally comes across as ‘small’ in order to be better able to talk about the big issues in life without pathos or kitsch: fear, friendship, betrayal, family, loneliness, being in love and happiness. And about the tragicomical nature of everyday life.”

Fantasy and Adventures in Space

Ruile: Nelumbiya
© Arena
That successful children’s books do not always have to revolve around problems is demonstrated by Margit Ruile in her fantasy adventure Nelumbiya. Im Land der magischen Pflanzen (Nelumbiya. In the Land of Magical Plants). Tara lives in Ornata, a sparse town carved out of the rock, which is ruled by the malevolent magician Askiel. People there tell stories about the forbidden land of Nelumbiya, from which wild plants are said to have once banished all the people. Nonetheless, Tara has always felt an inexplicable urge to get to know the country. Is this perhaps because of the symbol on her arm that nobody is allowed to know about? When Askiel orders everyone with a symbol to be found, Tara is forced to flee. Together with her friends Semur and Helena, the daughter of a prince, she embarks on a perilous journey to Nelumbiya. Will they manage to find the land of magical plants and reconcile humans with nature again?

Fix: Space Alarm. Mit Hyperschall durchs All
© Oetinger
Sammy discovers that his parents are agents from space. They have been ordered by their home planet to return immediately in order to deal with a dangerous space pirate and his crew. The family’s cat also turns out to be a space pilot. Together with his new school friends, Sammy finds himself caught up in the fight against the pirates. The entire story is told with great wit and involves inventive technology and crazy magical battle ideas. Patrick Fix‘s Space Alarm. Mit Hyperschall durchs All (Space Alarm. At Hypersonic Speed through Space) is a thoroughly enjoyable read full of wild illustrations for young science fiction fans.

As Gripping as Ocean’s Eleven

Hach: Was Wanda will
© Mixtvision
Sophisticated, cheeky and unscrupulous, Wanda is gathering information at her new school on five pupils she needs – because she’s planning a burglary. She reveals to the five that her plan is to break into a luxury villa by the forest on the outskirts of the city in order to steal a tennis ball signed by a star player. It’s supposed to be worth 30,000 euros. They plan the heist down to the last detail, but then everything takes an entirely different turn. Lena Hach’s Was Wanda will (What Wanda Wants), a detective story for children, is based on much the same formula as the comedy thriller Ocean’s Eleven, according to an NDR Kultur review : “A wonderful book, gripping, witty – and the planned heist is illustrated with really great sketches.”

Grill / Neuditschko: Bio-Diversi-Was?
© Leykam
Last but not least, a new non-fiction book for children gets to grips with the subject of biodiversity – a somewhat grown-up concept that is alluded to by the book’s rather flippant title. In Bio-Diversi-Was? (Bio-Diversi-What?), the biologist Andrea Grill and her “language robot” Robi introduce the reader with great creativity to seven natural habitats: from the oceans and meadows and the rivers, air, forest and mountains to the Earth’s interior. The author and her companion conduct interviews with the main residents of these habitats and present not only facts and information but also ideas for puzzles and games. The result is a very special book that helps children understand what is meant by biodiversity. This journey into the realm of plants and animals is complemented by Sandra Neuditschko’s colourful and detailed illustrations.

Logo Rosinenpicker © © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank
Anne Becker: Luftmaschentage
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2023. 173 p.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75759-3 (from 11 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Patrick Fix: Space Alarm. Mit Hyperschall durchs All
Hamburg: Oetinger, 2023. 176 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7512-0344-9 (from 8 years)

Andrea Grill / Sandra Neuditschko (Ill.): Bio-Diversi-Was? Reise in die fantastische Welt der Artenvielfalt
Graz: Leykam 2023. 216 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7011-8288-6

Lena Hach: Was Wanda will
München: Mixtvision, 2023. 186 p.
ISBN: 978-3-95854-204-4 (from 11 years)

Margit Ruile / Helge Vogt (Ill.): Nelumbiya. Im Land der magischen Pflanzen
Würzburg: Arena, 2023. 336 p.
ISBN: 978-3-401-60667-5 (from 10 years)

Oliver  Scherz / Philipp Waechter (Ill.): Sieben Tage Mo
Stuttgart: Thienemann, 2023. 170 p.
ISBN: 978-3-522-18648-3 (from 11 years)