These German children’s books are tailored to young readers, so they’re meant to be read by those who are new to the German language. The vocabulary is often simple and the story structure is easy to follow, so they’re perfect for German language beginners.
Many foreign speakers struggle with the word order in the German language and children’s books often simplify some of the grammar, allowing both German children and international speakers the opportunity to build up to native speaking.
If language learning is the reason why you’re researching German children’s books, we recommend buying the audiobook too, so you can listen and read at the same time. This may not be available for all books, but can speed up your progress significantly.
However, if you’re not looking for German originals and instead just want books written by German authors that perhaps also touch on German culture or history, this article will be equally as helpful for you.
Even reading German books in their English versions can help children learn about German food, tradition, culture, and even clothing! Allowing your kids to delve into different cultures is so important and will prove very useful by the time they come to learn about European culture and history at school.
However, if you’re not here to improve your language skills and aren’t interested in the cultural or historical aspects of these books, you can still take some good recommendations away with you. German authors are widely renowned and have written a plethora of best-selling classics, so if you’re just here to read something a little different or you want to expose yourself to new, lesser-known authors, this will also be a valuable article for you.
This list will include children’s books about Germany, books written by German authors, and books that hint at German culture or history. So, without further ado, here are the 30 best German books for children.
Hansel and Gretel / Hänsel und Gretel by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This classic fairy tale follows two siblings who journey through an enchanted forest and find a house made entirely of candy and cake. The young kids are immediately drawn to the house and start eating it from the outside. But when they realize an evil witch lives inside, things take a turn for the worst. She seems inviting, but her objective is to fatten the children up and eat them for herself.
Hansel and Gretel is just one of the fairy tales written by the German Grimm brothers. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood are among the others in their repertoire and come in German editions if you prefer those. If you’re buying any of these books for a child, be sure to buy the editions edited for children – the originals are very dark and will likely be scary and inappropriate for children’s reading.
Emil and the Detectives / Emil und die Detektive by Erich Kästner
Emil and the Detectives follows Emil, as he teams up with a group of detectives who are trying to catch a thief. They are sent on an action-packed chase across Berlin and the process contains some funny and entertaining stories.
Emil and the Detectives was first published in 1929 but remains a German children’s classic. Its tone is adventurous and charming, and it brilliantly balances gripping fast-paced scenes with funny anecdotes. Perfect for any child moving on from basic picture books.
The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear / Die 13 ½ Leben Des Kapt’N Blaubar by Walter Moerr
Walter Moers is a well-known author and illustrator. It is the first book in the Zamonia series, which tells interesting and wacky stories set in the mysterious land of Zamonia.
The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear is about, you guessed it, a bear with blue fur who miraculously has 27 lives. This book tells the reader about his first 13 ½ lives, following as he embarks on adventures, meets intriguing people and creatures, and gets himself into trouble.
The setting is wonderfully weird and imaginative, with endless details to make you cringe and laugh out loud. This book is perfect for young, creative kids and a great option if you’re new to the German language.
Inhkeart / Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke
This is an intriguing tale that tells the brilliant story of young Meggie, who, along with her father, a bookbinder, lives a quiet life in a small village.
But one day, Meggie’s father, Mo, is reading Inkheart to her and the evil antagonist bursts out of the book and into their living room. Although the prospect of fiction coming to life is exciting, the evil ruler in this book isn’t one you’d want in your reality. So, what was once Meggie’s intriguing bedtime story, soon becomes her nightmare.
Inkheart is a book within a book and follows as Meggie and her father navigate the world they’ve only ever read about. With two different worlds running parallel to one another, Meggie must venture through danger to end this nightmare and put this world back on the shelf where it belongs.
This is a great read for YA audiences or older children reading in English. If you’re looking to buy a book as a German language beginner, skip this one out, it may be a little overwhelming.
Max and Moritz / Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch
This is a brilliant story if you have misbehaving kids. Max and Moritz are two boys who cause havoc in their village with seven pranks. Their pranks start as naughty activities but escalate into full-blown disasters by the end.
These stories were first written in 1865 but are still popular with German families today. The story teaches children the dangers of mischievous behavior and disobedience.
Finding an all-English version of this book can be difficult, but there is a popular bilingual book that can allow you to read the stories in English and pick up a few new German words too!
A Week Full of Saturdays / Eine Woche Voller Samstage by Paul Maar
This one is mainly found in German and is frequently used for German classes in English-speaking schools. Eine Woche Voller Samstage is a sweet little book that follows a quiet teacher who is approached by a green creature covered in little blue spots. Mr. Taschenbier soon learns that every time he makes a wish, one spot will vanish and his wish comes true.
This is a story all about the right and wrong things to wish for. It’s funny and clever and promotes important moral lessons about priorities and materialism.
The Rainbow Fish / Der Regenbogenfisch by Marcus Pfister
The Rainbow Fish is a perfect story for young children written by international best-selling Swiss author, Marcus Pfister. This book has been decorated with a plethora of awards including the Christopher Award, the American Booksellers Award, and the Bologna Book Fair Prize.
It follows a rainbow fish, covered in multicolored scales and is known as the most striking and beautiful fish in the whole of the sea. However, this fish knows he’s the best-looking and has become isolated because of his vanity. Desperate to make friends and eager to change his ways, the rainbow fish begins distributing his glittering scales to the other fish.
A beautiful story of companionship, individuality, sharing, and vanity, The Rainbow Fish is essential reading for any young child and is a brilliant option if you’re new to the German language.
I Love You! / Ich Liebe Dich by Siegward Beck
This is a book tailored for very young children and will provide compassionate phrases in both German and English.
I Love You! will help children learn about different animals and their appearances. This one is great if you want to raise a bilingual child, as it gets children thinking about both languages in correlation with each other from an early stage. It is also a good gift for a relative, boyfriend/girlfriend, or child who wants to start learning German and/or English.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
After being orphaned at only 5 years of age, Heidi is sent to live with her grandad in the Swiss mountains. Her grandad is known for being mean and quick-tempered, but Heidi manages to bring out his kind side. After 3 wonderful years of living among the Alps and making great friends, Heidi is forced to return to Frankfurt and pursue a job working for a wealthy family.
Heidi is a great tale of friendship, change, grief, homesickness, and adaptability. Although it was originally published in 1881 in Swiss German, Heidi remains a popular children’s book across the world, particularly in Switzerland and other German-speaking countries.
The City of Dreaming Books / Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher by Walter Moers
This is another book from Moers’s Zamonia series, following the adventures held in the fantasy land where everything seems upside-down or back-to-front.
The City of Dreaming Books features the adventures of Optimus Yarnspinner as he enters Bookholm, a wonderful city filled to the brim with books and everything literature-related. While the beginning feels like a comfortable, magical dream, Yarnspinner’s experiences quickly become dangerous as the evil genius who lurks in this world starts playing mind games.
Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver / Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer by Michael Ende
Jim Button and Luke transform their railroad engine into a boat and begin an adventure across oceans and on different lands. They explore different places, meet different people, and comment on how different everything is from their own, insular island.
Jim Knopf: Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer is an excellent book for adventure lovers. With great, vivid descriptions of sea journeys, enchanting settings, and endearing characters, there’s no wonder why this book has been a hit with German children.
The Little Witch / Dei Kleine Hexe by Otfried Preußler
127 years old is young for a witch, and her inexperience is the reason why she’s not invited to the annual witch dance on Brocken mountain. But Little Witch is sneaky and she decides to gatecrash anyway.
The Little Witch is the brilliant story of this ‘youngster’ who gets into deep trouble after being caught. The mishap leads her to think about what qualifies a witch as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and can be insightful for young children learning about behavior, mistreatment, and wrongs and rights.
I Wish You Happiness / Meine Wünsche für Dich by Michael Wong
If you’re looking for a gripping or adventurous plot, look elsewhere. But if you’re after something simple, meaningful, and loving, this is the book for you.
I Wish You Happiness is almost like a book of affirmations. It’s a brilliant book to read to children to help bolster confidence and make them feel loved but can also be a lovely gift for parents, grandparents, or friends, especially those who want to improve their German language skills.
This book is a heartwarming expression of love and will help your child dream big and feel unstoppable.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King / Nussknacker und Mausekönig by E.T.A. Hoffmann
You may know this story from the famous ballet or various Christmas film adaptations that circulate every festive season. Well, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was originally a book, published in 1816 by German author, Ernst Hoffmann.
This charming classic follows Marie’s adventures after her favorite Christmas toy comes to life. He takes her on a whirlwind journey of danger, compassion, and friendship. This magical kingdom holds plenty of useful didactic messages, allowing readers to learn about good and evil, individuality and trust, and taking them on a magical adventure in the meantime!
The Neverending Story / Die Unendlich Geschichte by Michael Ende
This is the book that Michael Ende is most famous for and it’s certainly wacky, so if you’re looking for something adventurous, weird, and emotive, this is the right book for you. The Neverending Story is a book within a book, beginning with Bastian, the protagonist, reading the book himself.
As soon as he picks up The Neverending Story he is plunged into the magical world and realizes that he has become a character in the book. It quickly becomes obvious that the world he’s entered is in grave danger and he is the one that has been chosen to save it. With twists, turns, strange creatures, friendships, and even death along the way, this story is gripping, magical, and emotive – great for older children.
The Trip to Panama / Oh Wie Schön Ist Panama by Janosch
The Trip to Panama follows the adventures of a little bear and a little tiger, who live in a house together by the river. One day, when a lovely-smelling boat drifts past them with ‘PANAMA’ written on the side of it, they decide that Panama must be a wonderful place full of gorgeous food and beautiful smells. So, they set off on a long journey to find the country they think will be paradise.
This is a heartwarming story about adventures and appreciating the life you have. With two endearing characters leading the way, kids will have so much fun reading this book and may even learn a thing or two about their own lives.
I Love to Brush My Teeth / Ich Putze Meine Zähne Gern by Shelley Admont
Do you have a little one that refuses to brush their teeth? Well, if so, this one is a must-read! I Love to Brush My Teeth follows reluctant Jimmy, who hates brushing his teeth more than anything. His mom has gifted him a new, cool toothbrush, but he’s still not keen on using it.
However, when weird and wonderful things begin happening to Jimmy, he realizes how important brushing your teeth is and how much fun it can be!
With simple story-telling techniques and lots of imaginative illustrations to help along the way, this book is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf, or can act as a great starter book for people of any age who want to start learning the German language! It is set out as a bilingual book, so uses both German and English respectively, which can help you pair words together and can boost the speed of your language learning!
Struwwelpeter by Heinreich Hoffmann
Now recognized as a children’s classic and an influential piece of literature in its own right, Struwwelpeter is the story of mischief and consequence – perfect for a naughty child.
Hoffmann wrote this book for his own toddler and it tells the funny and dangerous stories of children who get into trouble and play silly pranks. The book is written in rhyming couplets, making the reading experience rhythmic and more fast-paced for those with smaller attention spans.
It’s the Turtle’s Birthday / Die Schildkröte Hat Geburtstag by Elizabeth Shaw
This is rarely available in English but not to fear – it’s perfect for German beginners, so why not test yourself and try a new language?
Die Schildkröte Hat Geburtstag is about a turtle whose birthday is rapidly approaching. All she wants is some salad. When her friends arrive, they bring their own treats, but turtle doesn’t like mud, meat, or grass.
This is a brilliant story originally written for those in Eastern Germany. It tells a wonderful story of empathy and perspective and is perfect for young children.
Friends / Freunde by Helme Heine
A rooster, a mouse, and a pig are the most unlikely group of friends, but this lot get on like a house on fire. They are inseparable, but at night they’re separated and must learn independence.
Friends is a fabulous book about friendship, individuality, and strength. Great for any child – German, English-speaking, or any other nationality.
Sofie’s World / Sofies Welt by Jostein Gaarder
This one is a little different and a little more educational. It’s a story that merges adventure, suspense, and philosophical history. It follows 14-year-old Sophie who is faced with two of the world’s most debated questions.
Her research takes her way beyond the boundaries of her small village in Norway and as she delves into the theories of history’s most famous philosophical figures, she realizes she has her own complicated questions to answer.
Although Gaarder is a Norwegian author, this book is highly popular in Germany and deserves a spot on this list. Sophie’s World is great for older kids who are fascinated by the big questions.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin / Der Rattenfänger von Hameln by Robert Browning
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a classic children’s tale that tells children about the legend of Hamelin, a small town in Saxony, Germany. It is set in the Middle Ages and discusses a robed piper, originally hired as a rat-catcher, who falls out with the rest of the town.
In revenge, he uses his spectacular magical abilities to lure the children away from the town, just like he would do with the rats. It’s a great story and a classic but the premise is a little creepy.
This is a brilliant, classic tale that is widely renowned as an alleged true story, based on true, disturbing events in the 13th century. According to a BBC article written about the history of the tale, in 1284 A.D., a mysterious multicolored piper entered Hamelin and began playing music, which attracted the attention of 130 children. The piper then led these children out of the town and into the mountains and they were never seen again.
Whether or not you think this book (regardless of its edits) is suitable for children is up to you but the tale has since been noted as a children’s story.
It was originally written as a poem but has since been edited into many different variations including novels, short stories, and children’s books. So, make sure you get the right one!
If you’re looking for a book to improve your beginner German language skills, this won’t be a good one to begin with, unless you find a simplified children’s version somewhere.
Where Is My Little Crocodile? / Wo Ist Mein Kleines Krokodil? by Ingo Blum
Where Is My Little Crocodile is the perfect book for training bilingual children. Not only is it a lovely, adventurous story about a small Crocodile called Charlie, but it is also a helpful book that can help boost German grammar and vocabulary use.
Charlie will discover new places, drive cars, get lost, get into trouble, and even eat out at a restaurant. It’s a fantastic blend of fun, adventure, and practicality. You or your child will start picking up on key German phrases and words without even thinking about it!
Little Haverman / Der Kleine Häwelmann by Theodor Storm
This little bilingual book is about a boy called Haverman. He’s an energetic, loud, mischievous boy who can’t be controlled by his mother. Eager to explore more, he searches for his own adventure.
This little book is the perfect gift for young children (particularly equally mischievous boys) who love to mess around. It illustrates that being energetic is not a bad trait but using it in naughty ways can have bad consequences.
The Little Haverman is a great book that uncovers individuality, freedom, and adventure. It’s a fun way of teaching your child about good behavior and repercussions.
The Flying Classroom / Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer by Erich Kästner
Martin attends a very peculiar boarding school and experiences some very peculiar things whilst he’s there. Snowball fights, parachute jumps, kidnappings, and cake are all among the ‘normal’ things that go on in his odd school.
The Flying Classroom is filled with weird and wacky people but the story is enjoyable and perfect for any child that’s easily bored.
Momo by Michael Ende
Momo is a homeless girl that lives in the ruins of an ancient amphitheater. Although she has nothing, she has been gifted with a special power that she has used for friendships. But now, she must use that power to fight the sinister men who have come to take over the city. Only she can save it, but she’ll need some help.
Momo is a fantasy book that explores time travel and secrecy to tell a wonderful, heartwarming story.
The Cucumber King / Der Gurkenkönig by Christine Nöstlinger
This is another basic, children’s book perfect for German language beginners. You’ll struggle to find this one in English, so only purchase it if you’re willing to learn.
The Cucumber King is a simple book about 12-year-old Wolfi, whose life is fairly dull until the unexpected Cucumber King appears from their basement and causes havoc.
Krabat by Otfried Preussler
It’s the 12th night of German Christmas and Krabat, a 14-year-old beggar boy is caroling, dressed as one of the 3 kings. He comes across a mysterious mill and finds 11 boys, all similar to him, who work tirelessly under the control of a sorcerer.
Krabat is magical, adventurous, and gripping – a great read for any older child.
Little Polar Bear / Kleiner Eisbär by Hans de Beer
Lars, the little polar bear, is so tired after his first hunting trip that he doesn’t feel the ice crack beneath him or feel himself floating further and further away from his dad.
Little Polar Bear is the story of Lars’ adventures on a whole new land. Far away from the North Pole and anything familiar, Lars must fend for himself and explore the world by himself.
This book teaches about individuality, family, journeys, feeling overwhelmed, and isolation. It’s a great story with a fantastic meaning, any kid is bound to love it!
My Daddy is the Best / Mein Papa Ist Der Beste by Sujatha Lalgudi
Perfect for any German beginner, this charming German kids’ book tells a beautiful family story using simple vocabulary and grammar, even total newbies won’t feel out of their depth!
My Daddy is the Best hones in on Tia and Ted, who both love their fun dad. It takes place on Father’s Day and follows them as they try to think of all the best things about their amazing dad. Ideally tailored to children aged 3-7, this book is equally adventurous, funny, and heartwarming. It also makes for an excellent Father’s Day present!
Regardless of whether you want to improve your German or just explore some new books, we hope this article has been helpful.
This is a varied list that will provide interesting stories and German culture references but will also help to steadily improve your German if you’re a beginner. Just stick to the books targeted at very young readers and make sure you purchase the German versions!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best book for German language beginners?
On this list, any of the picture books will be the best choice. These are typically the first books introduced to young children and can help foreign speakers learn key vocabulary and grammar with the help of visual aids.
What is the best German children’s book?
Hansel and Gretel is a classic and most children will have read this book at some point during their childhood, regardless of where they’re from.
What is the most entertaining book for those who just want to read in English?
If you’re just looking for English editions of German books, Inkheart is one of the best-rated books on this list. It’s a classic fantasy tale and incorporates action, adventure, and compelling characters.
Can I find German editions of my favorite English books?
If you’re looking to learn the German language and already have a favorite book in mind, you can find many German editions online – Amazon is a great place to look.
Why should I learn the German language?
Six European countries – Austria, German, Belgium, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg – use German, so learning the language can be great if you’re planning to travel. Additionally, if you’re studying European history, particularly the First and Second World Wars, German can be super helpful to better understand public figures, speeches, propaganda, and media.