Educational books in two languages: Yes, there are differences

You don’t realize how different book markets are, until you actually live in two of them…

Knowing that most of popular German novels are translated from English (or vice versa) I never felt that the German and English book market is so different. This changed when Finja was born and most books in our household were board and picture books. Sure, there still are lots of translations – just take “Room on the broom”, one of Finja’s favorite books. It’s German version “Für Hund und Katz’ ist auch noch Platz” is a Bestseller, too. Even “Bear on a bike” from the British publisher Barefoot books can be found as English original in almost every German bookstores now.

Finja's room is overflowing with books - because she has to have all the English and German classics plus all the other stuff we like
Finja’s room is overflowing with books – because she has to have all the English and German classics plus all the other stuff we like

So why are we still ordering books from Germany? Why does our family carry luggage heavy with children books when visiting the US?  Sometimes it’s just about being nostalgic. Even before Finja was ready to just look at books with more than vague interest (“oh, look, all these colors!”) we stocked up our bookshelf with classics like “Räuber Hotzenplotz”, “Weißt Du eigentlich wie lieb ich Dich habe” and “Der Regenbogen-Fisch”, the German original of “The rainbow fish”. We are able to read “The little prince” and “The very hungry caterpillar” in two languages, as a side by side comparison. Finja’s great-grandmother just send a package with German children book classics – they will be a great addition. And now that Finja mostly speaks English it’s a great way to still teach her the basics of German language.

But the truth is: There are certain differences. The market in the US is different from the German market. Finja loves the “National Geographic” books for kids – and I like them as well. We can order Scholastic-Books over Finja’s preschool and I rather spend 3 Dollar for a Natioal Geographic paperback about pandas or wolves than on a magazine about princesses. Finja can “read” these books herself (speak: interpreting the pictures) and then tell her dad that she just learned that great pandas are more cats than bears (an open interpretation of what I read two days ago) and wolves live in families.

National Geographic for kids - a great way to learn!
National Geographic for kids – a great way to learn!

But the best non-fiction educational series I know comes from Germany. “Wieso? Weshalb?  Warum?” is published by Ravensburger – and I still know the blue triangles in the corner of the page from my childhood.

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Wieso? Weshalb? Warum” comes as “junior” edition for children from 2 to 4 years of age, 4 to 7 and 8 to 12. Finja almost owns the whole junior edition. “My world”, “being in the wood”, “traffic rules”, “on the beach”, “cats” or “my body”: She loves the “open the flap”-concept and short texts about her world that don’t distract her from opening page after page without being considerate of my reading speed. As a parent I love the illustrations. They are colorful and realistic – but it’s not “too much”. As much as I like National Geographic, sometimes their children books are overflowing with information, colors and pictures… Plus: „Open the flap“-books are not just for toddlers. Finja is an active child and I love that she can learn about her world in an interactive way. Just look at this video (ignore the hard German intonation) – isn’t that awesome?

As soon as my sister visits in March we’ll try the TipToi-Books from the same publisher. A interactive pen bring the pictures in these books alive – sound and explanation included. I was searching for a similar concept in the US, but my research didn’t find any… It’s all about learning with fun isn’t it? 🙂

What is your favorite educational book for children?

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