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15 Great German Children’s Books for Readers of All Ages

German children’s books are excellent learning tools for young readers.

They’re also perfect for language learners who need easy reading material with simple sentence structures and basic vocabulary.

In this post, you’ll get 15 of the best German books written for children but enjoyed by readers of all ages. 

From German originals to worldwide classics translated to German, you’re sure to find a book or two to add to your reading list.

Contents


15 German Books for Kids and Language Learners

This list of German children’s books is organized in order of difficulty. You can move from one level to the next and gradually ramp up your reading skills.

1. “Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt” by Eric Carle

Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt/ the Very Hungry Caterpillar (German Edition)

Recognize this colorful little character? This book is the German version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

It’s a classic story that follows the journey of a tiny caterpillar as it eats its way through various foods before transforming into a beautiful butterfly.

Due to the repetitive and simple text, it’s most suited for beginner German learners. It’s also great for learning some basic vocabulary such as numbers, days of the week and common foods

In my opinion, the German title is actually better than the original. Nimmersatt (“never satiated”) is a great word to have in your back pocket! 

2. “Das kleine Ich bin ich” by Mira Lobe

Das kleine Ich Bin Ich (German Edition)

Since its publication in 1972, this beloved children’s book has sold almost a million copies and has been translated into many other languages.

The story follows a small, nameless creature who embarks on a journey to discover its identity. Despite being ridiculed by other animals, it learns to embrace its uniqueness and realizes the importance of individuality and self-acceptance. 

The colorful illustrations, simple vocabulary and touching narrative make this a great book for both young readers and language learners.

German-childrens-book-cover 3. “Oh wie schön ist Panama” by Janosch

Janosch’s books are beloved by both children and adults for their heartwarming stories and vibrant illustrations.

This particular story follows a bear named Tigerente and a little tiger on a whimsical adventure in search of Panama, a place they believe represents beauty and happiness.

This book has a bit more text than the previous two on the list, giving more opportunities to learn new vocabulary and practice your reading skills. You can also find episodes of the accompanying TV series on YouTube.

Aufruhr im Gemüsebeet (Pettersson und Findus)4. “Aufruhr im Gemüsebeet (Pettersson und Findus)” by Sven Nordqvist

This book is part of a popular series about an elderly man named Petterson and his mischievous cat, Findus.

The Swedish series includes 9 books and has been translated into 44 languages, including German. They offer charming tales that appeal to both children and adults alike.

These stories are slightly more elaborate and therefore told in longer text passages. They’re ideal for learners with a basic understanding of German.

There are also multiple movies and a TV series based on these two beloved characters and their friendship.

Der-Rauber-Hotzenplotz-book-cover 5. “Der Räuber Hotzenplotz” by Otfried Preußler

This classic story has captivated generations of readers and has been turned into several movies.

The story follows the misadventures of a bumbling robber named Hotzenplotz and the brave efforts of his two young friends to stop him. It’s filled with humor, suspense and imagination.

While it still contains a lot of vivid illustrations, it’s the first book on this list that doesn’t rely on imagery for storytelling and would also work as a text-only version.

If you like this one, you’ll find two more books on this list by the same author.

Eine Woche voller Samstage. ( Ab 8 J.). (German Edition)6. “Eine Woche voller Samstage” by Paul Maar

This is part of a series of 11 books that invite readers into the imaginative world of a young boy named Herr Taschenbier and a wondrous creature that can grant wishes.

In this story, Herr wishes for a week full of Saturdays. With each day presenting unique and humorous challenges, the book takes readers on a whimsical journey filled with laughter and unexpected twists.

This book is suitable for a reader with a solid base in the German language as it’s well beyond a picture book.

Das-Kleine-Gespenst-book-cover 7. “Das kleine Gespenst” by Otfried Preußler

This children’s book has enchanted readers of all ages and was made into films released in 1992 and 2013. The story revolves around a friendly little ghost as it explores a castle at night, longing to experience daylight.

The book takes readers on whimsical adventures with its endearing characters and delightful illustrations.

Preußler’s storytelling prowess and imaginative world-building make it a beloved classic that celebrates friendship, individuality and the joy of embracing one’s true self. It’s a great option for a beginner German learner who wants a bit of a challenge. 

Die kleine Hexe. ( Ab 8 J.). (German Edition)8. “Die kleine Hexe” by Otfried Preußler

This is another popular story by Preußler about a young witch determined to prove herself to the older witches in her community.

Despite being too young to participate in the annual Walpurgis Night gathering, the little witch sets out on her own adventures, spreading kindness and defying expectations along the way.

Although the story might sound infantile to grown-up ears, the language is actually quite demanding and should not be underestimated.

The book has been translated into 47 languages and has made it to TV screens even in Japan. 

German-childrens-book-cover 9. “Der Wunschpunsch” by Michael Ende

The full name of this book “Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch” features what’s probably the longest adjective ever invented in the German language.

It tells the story of a cat and a raven who try to prevent a pair of evil magicians from creating a potion that grants wishes (Wunschpunsch) for their evil purposes.

The story takes place entirely on New Year’s Eve from about 5:00 P.M. to midnight and offers a delightful blend of humor, suspense and whimsy, enchanting readers of all ages with its imaginative narrative and vibrant characters.

Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (German Edition)10. “Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer” by Michael Ende

Now we’re getting into the realm of what can be considered children’s novels.

The stories about young Jim Knopf and his friend Lukas are among the most successful books for young people in Germany. Millions of children have read them and watched the accompanying TV series.

This story follows the two characters on their quest to save Princess Li Si and uncover the secrets of their mysterious island. Written in post-war Germany, the book cleverly subverts Nazi imagery and addresses themes like English colonialism.

Recommended for intermediate learners, it offers a moderately complex vocabulary and narrative structure.

Pippi-Langstrumpf-book-cover 11. “Pippi Langstrumpf” by Astrid Lindgren

Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s novels about Pippi Longstocking are as popular in Germany as they are all over the world. Generations have grown up with the adventures of the world’s strongest girl and her friends.

The story follows Pippi’s hilarious and adventurous escapades as she defies societal norms and embraces her independence.

The book’s accessible language and engaging narrative provide a rewarding challenge for those seeking to improve their German language skills.

Lindgren has written a wide range of other books for children which make for equally good reading material.

Emil-Und-Die-Detektive-book-cover 12. “Emil und die Detektive” by Erich Kästner

No list of German literature for children would be complete without author Erich Kästner. Kästner’s works are classics in Germany’s youth literature and several of them have been turned into movies.

The story of Emil and his detective friends is set in pre-war Berlin, offering an interesting glimpse into German history. When Emil’s money is stolen during a train journey, he teams up with his newfound friends to track down the thief and recover his funds.

The book showcases themes of friendship, bravery and the power of collaboration. It’s an entertaining choice that’s great for intermediate German learners.

Momo. (German Edition)13. “Momo” by Michael Ende

“Momo” is a thought-provoking fantasy novel that critiques consumerism and the stress of modern life.

The story follows Momo, a young girl with an extraordinary ability to listen attentively to others. As she encounters mysterious time thieves, Momo must use her unique gift to save the world from losing its sense of time and becoming enslaved by productivity.

Published in 1973, “Momo” anticipates the challenges faced by contemporary society and offers a relevant commentary on our time-deprived world. 

It’s recommended for intermediate to advanced learners due to its complex vocabulary and philosophical concepts.

Tintenherz14. “Tintenherz” by Cornelia Funke

The “Inkheart” book series is among the most contemporary on this list. The story follows Meggie, a young girl with a father who possesses the extraordinary ability to bring characters from books into the real world by reading them aloud.

It’s a testament to the power of words and their ability to create entire worlds for the reader. The book was also turned into a major motion picture.

With its descriptive language and complex narrative structure, it provides an immersive and rewarding reading experience for intermediate to advanced German learners

Harry-Potter-German-book-cover 15. “Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen” by J. K. Rowling

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the story of the young English wizard is one of the most popular children’s books in Germany. The series has captivated readers of all ages.

Its extensive vocabulary, complex sentence structures and magical terminology make it an engaging challenge for intermediate to advanced German learners.

If you’ve graduated to reading an entire book of this series, you’re well on your way to mastering German. Plus, the fact that you’ve probably already read the series makes it easier to follow along.

Why Children’s Books are Great for German Learners

While they might not be what you would usually read, there are a number of advantages to reading books intended for a much younger audience:

  • They’re easy to read. Books for children are intended for a group of people who just started out learning the language. As a result, they use easy vocabulary and simple language so as not to overwhelm first-time readers.
  • They provide a great starting point. By starting simple, you can progressively increase the difficulty by using material that’s just a little above what you know. This allows you to challenge yourself while avoiding the frustration of trying to read a text that’s too advanced.
  • They’re meant for native speakers. Children in Germany actually grow up with these books. This is where they get some of their early words and sense of word order from. If it works for them, it can work for you!
  • They’re meant to be read out loud. Children’s books—especially ones for the very young—are intended to be read aloud by parents. You can pretend you’re reading to a little one for both reading and speaking practice in German. Try a few silly voices and really have fun with it!
  • They’re often very repetitive. Books for younger children frequently repeat sentences over and over. This is great for beginners as it means you’ll practice the same words and grammatical structures again and again like you would with a rote repetition study approach (but more fun). 

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Where to Find Children’s Books in German

If you’re not in a German-speaking country, you won’t always find a library carrying children’s books in the language. Luckily, there are a number of online resources where you can even score some for free.

  • Amazon.de: The German version of Amazon carries a wide range of books for young people, from toddlers to teenagers, with international shipping. Many are also available in electronic form, and there are even a number of e-books available for free.
  • Childrenslibrary.org: This foundation provides access to the best children’s literature from around the world. There are many German books available on the site which you can read online.
  • Gutenberg.org: Project Gutenberg collects books that have become part of the public domain and makes them available in e-book form. You can browse by language or search for a particular book, author or category.

 

With these German children’s books, you can pick up new words and phrases and improve your language skills while getting lost in a captivating story.

Keep a dictionary nearby or download a dictionary app on your phone and make a list of the new words you learn to watch your vocabulary grow by the chapter! 

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