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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 🌎.

Sofies Welt
Jostein Gaarder
This fascinating book wraps a children-friendly history of philosophy in a narrative bursting with imagination ✨.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1991

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.

Der Mäusesheriff
Janosch
A mouse dressed in cowboy hat and boots shows up in town one day, to share the stories of his action-packed adventures as a mouse-sheriff in the Wild West 🐭. One of many well-loved children’s books by Janosch, his most well known is: ‘Oh wie schön ist Panama’.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1970

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).

Der kleine Prinz
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This story, at face value, follows the life of the little prince, describing his home 🏡, his love 🌹, and the adults he has met on his journeys 👫. However, on closer inspection, it serves another purpose: to explore human nature and the difference between child- and adulthood.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1943

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 .

🎬

Note

There is also a film version of this book, for those interested! 💥

Eine Woche voller Samstage
Paul Maar
When a strange, cheeky creature magically ⚡️ appears in Mr Taschenbier’s home, he’s seen as a nuisance and efforts are made to get rid of him. However, as time passes, they begin to have fun together, developing an unlikely friendship.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1943

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 💪.

🎧

Note

There’s also an audiobook available for “Momo”, if you’re interested! 💥

Momo
Michael Ende
A fascinating story about the concept of time 🕰, and how it may be harnessed and willfully given away by those happy to accept a perceived sensible life, void of any imagination ✨ or participation in childish, time-wasting activities such as reading 📚, playing 🏏, or painting 🎨. Momo is about the modern day dark side of adulthood ⛓.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1973

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.

Emil und die Detektive
Erich Kästner
A story full of humour and the spirit of adventure, ‘Emil & die Detektive’ follows a twelve-year-old boy, as he navigates Berlin with his new friends, to find the thief that stole his money 👊.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Crime Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1929

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.

Als ich mit Hitler Schnapskirschen aß
Manja Präkels
A book about the experiences of a teenage girl living in East Germany 🏘, as her childhood friend involves himself more and more in a violent, right-wing youth gang.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Criminal Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 2017

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 💥.

Tintenherz
Cornelia Funke
A story filled with adventure and more than a little magic 🔮, Meggie and her father Mo resolve to retrieve a stolen book 📖 from one of its own characters, who - along with a few others - has been magically pulled out of the pages, and into the world of real life.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 2003

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 ️!

Pippi Langstrumpf
Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Langstrumpf is a peculiar little girl, living off of the gold coins 💰 that fill her suitcase, with her unusual flatmates - a pony 🐴 and a monkey 🐒. Together with her friends, she sets off on a number of adventures in the small town where she lives, using her quick wit to outsmart the pesky adults in her way.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1945

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.

Krabat
Otfried Preußler
A book about how one young boy navigates danger and temptation as he learns to manage his newly acquired power 🔮. Preußler also wrote the German children’s book classics: ‘Die kleine Hexe’, ‘Der Räuber Hotzenplotz’ and ‘Das kleine Gespenst’.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1971

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.

TKKG Series
Stefan Wolf
A classic, reliable, criminal fiction series 🔎, following the lives of four young friends, as they solve cases in their city.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Criminal Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1979

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.

Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl
Judith Kerr
in 1933, nine-year-old Anna and her family must flee Berlin, to escape the Nazi regime, which has just come to power. The story tells of her experiences, as she travels from country to country, in search of a new home 🏡.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1971

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.

Blueprint – Blaupause
Charlotte Kerner
When Iris Sellin decides to clone herself in order to keep her musical talents alive 🎹, she neglects to consider whether the clone - whilst possessing the same gifts and talents as her - would have the same dreams and desires, and things don’t go to plan. A thought-provoking novel about the ethical implications of human cloning.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1999

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 💀.

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen
J. K. Rowling
The first book of a widely-read and beloved series, full of magic 🔮 and mystical creatures 🐉, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone’ explores the beginning of a young boy’s adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 🏰.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy
Level: B1+
Published: 1997

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.

Grimms Märchen
die Gebrüder Grimm
a 19th Century children’s book 📖, full of hundreds of folk and fairy tales that had been collected from all over the country, including classics like ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Hansel und Gretel’ ✨.

Genre: Children’s Fairytales / Folklore
Level: B1+
Published: 1812

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 🔥.

Struwwelpeter
Heinrich Hoffmann
In this 19th Century moral storybook, Struwwelpeter explores the bad behaviour of a number of children, the consequences of which they suffer being particularly gruesome ✂️.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1845
Max und Moritz
Wilhelm Busch
Max und Moritz follows two particularly cheeky boys who won’t stop troubling their neighbours, until they meet their terrible fate ☠️.

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Level: B1+
Published: 1865