The last week has been a rough one for me. For a lot of people, I know. A lot of my friends are having a pretty serious emotional response to the state of our country right now. I am too, but I’ve been able to help offset it with things like taking care of Bookstore Baby, cuddling with my husband, seeing friends, calling my representatives and senators, and reading. Whenever I feel very anxious or upset, reading always calms me down. I think it helps a lot of people in settling their thoughts, clearing their minds of anxieties and poisonous thoughts. Reading helps change perspectives and presents new ideas, something I have always loved about books. But most of all, I love the calming properties of a well-loved story.
I am currently reading The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser, and it is wonderful! It’s also a translated work as Glaser is German. It’s her first book that’s been translated into English, as far as I can tell. My limited reading of German children’s and YA literature (three books, total) has left me with the impression that German authors love stories within stories. Books where characters travel into other books, and so on and so forth. Has anyone read other children’s and YA that’s different from literally jumping into books?
Let’s start with The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, a book that is near and dear to my heart. The book begins with Bastian stumbling into an unusual bookstore to escape some schoolyard bullies. He’s a reader, a nerd, and doesn’t yet know how to tap his inner strength and courage. He meets Mr. Coreander (the bookshop’s owner), who is reading The Neverending Story. Which Bastian quickly filches and scurries off with. I was around 12 years old when I read this book for the first time, and it changed the way I viewed reading. I love the feeling of falling into a book, getting acquainted with the characters, following the plot line until the inevitable end (or cliffhanger, depending). But the idea of actually traveling into a book and interacting with the characters, possibly changing the plot, now that was something my pre-teen brain latched onto. A chance to escape regular life! A chance to experience a book! What adventurous fun!
Then, in college, I discovered Inkheart by the indomitable Cornelia Funke. And Inkheart carried me away in the exact same manner as reading The Neverending Story had all those years ago (eight, to be precise). Meggie’s father, Mo (based on Brendan Fraser, who reads the audio books AND stars in the movie adaptation!), has a very special talent where he can read characters and items out of books. What an amazing thing to be able to do! Except, that any time he reads someone or thing out of a book, a person or thing from our world takes its place. And the people who come out of books aren’t always the heroes and heroines. I absolutely adore this book, and the two subsequent novels, on this premise alone. And yes, Funke is German along with Ende.
Which brings me to The Book Jumper. Amy, the main character, has grown up with her young mother, Alexis, in Germany. But when Alexis’ heart is broken, they return to the Scottish island where she grew up. There, Amy discovers she is one in a long line of book jumpers, people who can enter books and interact with the characters. Though Amy is not allowed to alter the story in anyway when she’s in the books, she discovers that someone else is. But only two other book jumpers exist in the whole world, and both of them live on the island with Amy. She must figure out who is altering the world’s favorite classics before the books cease to exist all together.
So, in conclusion, I must theorize that German authors who write children’s and YA only write about characters that can travel into books. Based on the three samples I have provided above. (This is not at all true, I am well aware. But I am also not well-read when it comes to German children’s books. Or fiction in general.)
What is your favorite German book? Or author? Or both?