Children’s books are known to be little bombs of vocabulary 💣, written with the intention to teach kids new and useful words for everyday life - perfect for language learners! With that in mind, here is a list of our handpicked reading suggestions ✨.
German Children's Books
Reading children’s books 📚 can be a fantastic way to ease yourself into the world of German content, as they are short, rewarding and accessible 💥!
That’s not all, though:
- Some are valued as important, historical treasures 🔥, known for the cultural impact they’ve made.
- Many - although written from a child’s perspective - tackle important socio-political issues, offering more food for thought than one might expect 💪.
- Almost all of them are like little bombs of vocabularly 💣, packed with useful, everyday words to learn.
With that said, let’s take a look at our list of recommendations ✨:
1. Sofies Welt - Jostein Gaarder
(Originally published in Norwegian 🇳🇴, translated by Gabriele Haefs)
This book follows the life of a teenage girl named Sofie 🙍🏼, who learns about the history of philosophy from her teacher, Alberto Knox 👨🏻, before both realising that they are fictional characters in a book 📚.
In order to escape the control of the book’s author ✍🏼, they form a plan to enter into the real world 🌎.
2. Der Mäusesheriff - Janosch
A sweet and uplifting parody of the Wild West 🤠, der Mäusesheriff, clad in boots and a cowboy hat, shows up at the mouse town of Katzelbach one day, unannounced, ready to share the tales of his adventures with anyone who’ll listen 🐭.
Little do they know that the cheeky mouse has made everything up, and his true abilities are put to the test, when Bimsel the cat 😼 interrupts the storytelling, hungry for dinner.
3. Der kleine Prinz - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(Originally published in French 🇫🇷, translated by Hans Magnus Enzensberger)
This classic novella is a language learning staple, extremely popular in the language learning community 🔥!
The story follows the narrator, who meets a boy called ‘the little prince’, who tells him about his life; about the asteroid he lives on, the rose he fell in love with 🌹, and the narrow-minded adults he met before travelling to Earth 🚀.
The book explores themes such as love, loss and loneliness, and shares interesting perspectives on human nature and the differences between children (imagination) and adults (realism).
4. Eine Woche voller Samstage - Paul Maar
This book is one of a series, about a curious creature named Sams - a cheeky thing, with coarse red hair, blue freckles and frog feet 🐸.
One Saturday, Sams appears, unannounced, in the home 🏡 of Mr Taschenbier- an unremarkable, timid man, who had - until then - lived an unremarkable, timid life.
Although things are unpleasant to begin with, soon the two begin an unlikely friendship, and learn valuable life lessons from each other ✨.
There is also a film version of this book, for those interested! 💥
5. Momo - Michael Ende
A lively city 🏙 is visited by the mysterious Men in Grey 🕶, who encourage its citizens to adopt the idea of timesaving - putting time away in the bank ⌛️, in order to collect it later with interest.
As a result of their influence, more and more citizens give up on social activities 🕺🏾, art 🎨, and even sleeping 🛌 … anything deemed unnecessary, for the sake of saving time.
Life becomes dull and joyless for the citizens ☁️. Worse than that- they don’t even know that the Men in Grey have deceived them... It’s up to Momo - a little girl, to find the stolen time, and give it back to the people 💪.
There’s also an audiobook available for “Momo”, if you’re interested! 💥
6. Emil & die Detektive - Erich Kästner
Twelve-year-old Emil leaves his hometown to visit relatives in Berlin for the first time, all alone 👦🏼.
When the money 💵 his mother gave to him, intended for his Grandmother, is stolen on the train 🚂, he resolves to find the thief himself. As he navigates the big city, he makes friends, who help him scour Berlin for clues 🔎. Together, they’re determined to get Emil’s money back 👊.
If crime fiction 🕵🏾 is particularly interesting to you, check out: German Crime Fiction Books for Curious Learners.
7. Als ich mit Hitler Schnapskirschen aß - Manja Präkels
This critically acclaimed book 📖 sets out to capture a particularly tense time in German history, stretching between the GDR period and post-reunification, and regarding the growing presence of radical right-wing youth groups in East German provinces 🏘.
It describes the experiences of Mimi, whose relationship with childhood friend Oliver slowly disintegrates as he involves himself more and more in a violent, right-wing youth gang.
Interesting note for language learners: Mimi’s voice in the novel is intentionally crafted with the use of simply constructed sentences and terms from the local dialect and youth culture.
8. Tintenherz - Cornelia Funke
Mo, a bookbinder 📚, and his young daughter Meggie both share a passion for reading ⚡️.
When they are warned about a man determined to get his hands on a certain book in their possession, the family flees with the desired object held close 📖.
Despite their efforts to hide, however, the book is ultimately taken from them. In an effort to explain the situation, Mo then shares with Meggie a secret that changes her life forever, before they set out to retrieve the stolen book 💥.
9. Pippi Langstrumpf - Astrid Lindgren
(Originally published in Swedish 🇸🇪, translated by Cäcilie Heinig)
Pippi Langstrumpf is widely read 📖 (and watched) in Germany, and this first book about the title character, introduces Pippi as living in a small town with her monkey 🐒 and pony 🐴.
She sets off on a different adventure in every chapter, accompanied by her friends Thomas and Annika 👫, and equipped with an unpredictable nature, hot temper and superhuman strength, that makes the adventures all the more unpredictable ⚡️!
10. Krabat - Otfried Preußler
This book follows the adventures of fourteen-year-old orphan, Krabat.
His journey begins at a school of black arts 🔮, where he learns black magic, and marvels at his newly acquired power. As time passes, however, he slowly realises that he has unknowingly entered into a deadly game 🐍.
It becomes clear that only love can save him, and through this development, Preußler explores the dangers and temptations that come with power, and the importance and influence of love.
11. TKKG Series - Stefan Wolf
This well-loved, children’s favourite follows the adventures of four young friends, as they solve criminal cases together 🔎, in their city 🏙.
The cases usually deal with themes related to young people, including alcohol and drug abuse, partying and friendship - particularly useful for German learners interested in adding to their vocabulary bank. Also useful, is the audio play series available, for those who'd like to improve their listening comprehension 🎧.
If crime fiction is particularly interesting to you, check out: German Crime Fiction Books for Curious Learners.
12. Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl - Judith Kerr
This novel is the first of a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels 📚, by German-born british writer, Judith Kerr.
The story is set in 1933, and follows the unpredictable life of nine-year-old Anna, who flees her Berlin home 🏡 with her family, as Nazism comes to power. As refugees, they travel across Europe, passing Switzerland, then Paris and ultimately settlling in England.
13. Blueprint – Blaupause - Charlotte Kerner
This story centres on Iris Sellin - a profoundly gifted pianist 🎹, who, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, decides to clone herself in an effort to keep her talent alive for longer than she herself - given her sickness - could manage.
But when her daughter finds out that she is, in fact, her mother’s clone, she’s dismayed by the realisation, and struggles against her mother’s grasp ⛓.
Exploring the ethical implications of human cloning, this children’s book is full of thought-provoking material to chew on.
14. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen - J. K. Rowling
(Originally published in English 🇬🇧, translated by Klaus Fritz)
This celebrated children’s book is a particular favourite amongst language learners ✨, as many already know the storyline, having read the books series or watched the films as a child. Language learners may find this advantageous as they’re less likely to get confused or overwhelmed.
In the book, Harry Potter - a young boy, discovers that he is a wizard just before being sent off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 🏰, to learn magic 🔮. There, he makes both friends and enemies, the most dangerous being the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who he soon realizes is out to get him 💀.
15. Grimms Märchen - die Gebrüder Grimm
Would this list 📚 be complete, without including one of the most culturally significant children’s books in, not only German speaking countries, but the world 🌎?
The ‘Grimms Märchen’ book is famously composed of hundreds of folktales 🍄 that had been collected from all over the country, serving to reflect the values and norms of society at the time, packaged in fantastical narratives involving fairies, magic, elves and witches ✨.
If you’d be interested in reading one of these classic tales from the Grimms Märchen book, check out our mini reading course on Hansel & Gretel.
16. Worthy Mentions: Struwwelpeter + Max & Moritz
These two picturebooks 📚 are particularly curious, in that they are both known for graphic depictions of violence 🔪 in both their illustrations and texts, despite being written for children 😅.
The Struwwelpeter is divided into ten separate little tales, each describing a different child’s naughty behaviour, and the gruesome consequences that follow, usually ending in death ☠️.
Max & Moritz, on the other hand, follows the mischievous adventures of two little boys who wreak havoc on their neighbours, including the teacher 👨🏻🏫, the baker 👨🏼🍳 and the widow 👵, until they’re terribly punished for their cheekiness 🔥.