Time flies: 30 years ago the Berlin wall came down. Before that Germany was divided in East and West, with two different political systems and all that comes with it. For children nowadays it may be hard to imagine, even more so when they are fare away here in the US. Probably most of us parents have forgotten a thing or two, even though we still speak about "the wall in our heads". Here are some great age-appropriate books to read to and with your child - and discuss.
Franziska Gehm / Horst Klein
ALS DEINE ELTERN NOCH KLEIN UND DEUTSCHLAND NOCH ZWEI WAREN
In the center of this picture book/graphic book are two cousins: Max who lives in Federal Republic of Germany and Maja, who lives in East Germany. We learn about their daily lives - of the differences, but also what they have in common.We learn why Germany was divided in two after WW II - and are suddenly confronted with a pop up wall jumping up from the page right after the explanation. It is a book with a good sense of humor, that explains things age appropriately and takes a non ideological stance. You can look at it again and again - and go as deep as you like in discussing with your kid.
6 years and up
FRITZI WAR DABEI
A very different take on history is offered in this book. We get a glimpse at the very last days of East Germany from the perspective of the nine year old girl Fritzi. When school starts after the summer break, Fritzi is confused. Her best friend Sophie is gone and the teacher doesn't seem to miss her. More people disappear. And Fritzi's grand-mother calls from Munich to ask if they are still in the East. Mondays people demonstrate against the ruling regime. Fritzi's mother is on the side of the ones leaving and demonstrating. Her father says, you can't just leave a country like a movie theater when you don't enjoy the film. So Fritzi goes to the demonstrations with her mom alone. But then people seem to become more and more afraid. Her mother continues to head to the streets on Mondays, but Fritzi stays home with her father because it is too dangerous. From inside they see trucks pouring into the city...
Suspenseful and moving - the author spoke to many who were children in 1989 and thus it has a very immediate feeling to it.
7 years and up
PULLERPAUSE IM TAL DER AHNUNGSLOSEN
If you are looking for something hilariously funny, that still offers great insights, PULLERPAUSE IM TAL DER AHNUNGSLOSEN is for you! Jobst and his mother are returning from their vacation - they were on a time travel in the middle ages - when his mother urgently needs to pee. So they take a stop in Dresden, 1987. But then their suitcase - which actually is their time travel vehicle - disappears. Still clad for the middle ages, they attract quite a bit of attention and almost get arrested. But luckily a theatre director intervenes and they can stay in his dacha, while they with the help of some children search for the suitcase. Unfortunately the suitcase was highly suspicious and has been brought to Berlin to investigate. Will they make it out to Munich in the the 21st century?
9 years and up
Nora, lives on the Wolliner Street 46. Aron who loves constructing stuff, in particular anything that flies, often lives with his grandmother a little further up at number 56, when his parents are in Moscow. In between them is the Berlin wall. When a butcher on the Eastern side wants to kill a guinea pig, Aron constructs a flying object to save the little animal. And on the other side of the wall is Nora, who wants nothing more then a pet....
This book is cleverly done. Once you have finished reading Aron's story and learned about his everyday life. you turn the book round and read it from the Nora's.
9 years and up
ALLES NUR AUS ZUCKERSAND
Jonas and Fred are best friends and as close as can be, despite their very different backgrounds. Jonas' parents are members of the communist party. Fred's mother is a single parent who studies the world map and preys before dinner.. Most of the days they hang out in empty factories close to the Western border. But their days together are over sooner then they like. Fred's mother has applied for an exit visa and it has been granted. They are not allowed to see each other anymore. They do so secretly. But how will the two be able to see each other again and stay friends once Jonas is gone? They are convinced they can and form a plan.
A very touching novel about a friendship and how politics can affect children. Dirk Kummer made an equally amazing and award winning movie with the same title.
10 years and up
EINE KINDHEIT IM SCHATTEN DER MAUER
Kinderland is an award-winning graphic novel that is set in the last days of Eastern Germany. In its center is Mirco Witze, a shy and insecure teenager, who tries to stay out of trouble by adjusting as much as he can. It is not as easy as it could be, as his parents are regime critics and church goers. His big passion is table tennis. With his friends he is so enthralled by organizing a tournament, he somehow doesn't really take in what is going on around him: other kids in his class are missing, his parents are discussing leaving Easter Germany themselves and people are on the streets...
10 years and up