Week 7 of our curriculum, Winter Promise’s Children Around the World, took us to Germany with a two-day stopover in Poland. I don’t know much about German geography or history other than the two World Wars so I enjoyed learning about some major landmarks and history along with the kids. We were all pretty astounded with the beauty of the Black Forest and some of the coastlines we looked at in Winter Promise’s ebook about Germany.
Our celebration meal was a favorite as it wasn’t too far off from meals my kids already like. We bought some real German and Polish sausages (and made the kids’ favorite hot dogs as well), fried up some onions and a can of sauerkraut, and made a loaf of 100% rye bread. We tried to make our own sauerkraut but it didn’t turn out well so we went with our backup plan by using the can. We also tried to make Bavarian pretzels, but I messed up the dough so they didn’t hold their shape very well even though they tasted good. Bignificent also adapted our almond meal cookies to make a version of German lebkuchen. We all LOVED them!
This was a pretty laid-back week for us as we mostly just laid around reading. We did do some Polish Gwiazdy, a paper cutting craft that is very similar to cutting snowflakes. The kids really enjoyed that! Here’s a website with some instructions on how to do it if you are interested.
I thought you might like to see how we use all the ebooks that come with the Winter Promise curriculum. I usually run a cord from my Macbook to our TV so that the kids can sit on the couches or the floor and all see without having to crowd around my computer desk. In the picture below, we are learning about Martin Luther and the room in which he wrote his famed theses. Please forgive the messy TV table!
As I prepare for each week, I’ve been doing several internet searches to try and find what modern-day children in each country are reading.I found lots for the UK, but Switzerland and France were slim pickings. My kids loved Heidi and Madeline though so we were good for those weeks. This is a great article about a few benefits of reading translated books to children and it has great suggestions at the end.
I was very excited and a bit surprised to find that there are a number of classic German children’s chapter books that have been translated into English and become quite popular. We actually found far more than even we could read in a week so we ended up with a list of books and authors to try. This list from Goodreads is pretty amazing!
- Michael Ende‘s The Neverending Story is the book Bignificent chose to read when I showed her my list. She enjoyed it. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I do plan to. I can’t believe it has been translated into more than 30 languages!
- I am really intrigued by Ende’s book Momo and am looking forward to reading it as soon as possible.
- An author that came up repeatedly in my searches was Erich Kästner, and specifically the book Emil and the Detectives. Kästner’s backstory is pretty amazing. According to Amazon, he was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1899. He was an only child who was devoted to his mother who worked as a hairdresser to supplement their family income. His experiences in the army during WW1 made him feel strongly that war and violence were wrong. He published Emil and the Detectives in 1928 and Emil and the Three Twins in 1933. The books were very popular but under Nazi rule, his books were labelled anti-German. Joseph Goebbels, who was in charge of the Government Propaganda, said “In the name of the fight against decadence and moral corruption! In the name of breeding and rectitude in state and family, I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glasser and Erich Kästner!” Erich Kästner was the only one who was present as his books were tossed on to the flames in 1933. I love how Amazon goes on to say, “Luckily, Hitler and Goebbels may have thrown Kästner’s books on to the flames in 1933, but Emil has outlasted them and lives to spy another day.” Both Emil books are available for Kindle and look really fun! As I researched him more, I found myself wishing I could read German. He wrote so many books and only a fraction of them seem to be available in English. The ones that are in English look great and we will definitely be working our way through them, including the following:
- The Little Man
- The Little Man and the Little Miss
- The Flying Classroom – available for Kindle
- Dot and Anton – also available for Kindle
- And would you believe that his book Lisa and Lottie was the inspiration for the movie The Parent Trap? I can’t believe I didn’t know this! I must read this book immediately!! There’s another translation with illustrations actually called The Parent Trap, and I can’t decide which one to buy! Decisions, decisions.
- The Spaghetti Detectives by Andreas Steinhofel came up as a recommendation for fans of Emil and the Detectives. This book was awarded the prestigious German Youth Literature Prize in 2009.
- 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers also came up a number of times and looks interesting. Moers has several other books that look pretty captivating so you may want to check him out if you’ve got a fantasy lover in your house.
- Of course, we can’t forget Grimm’s Fairy Tales. While the originals have yet to really capture my kids’ interest, they can’t get enough of Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Grimmtastic Girls series these days. Not quite the same literary value, but, oh well.
- One final author that came up over and over was Cornelia Funke and her Inkheart series. I suggested these to Bignificent this week, but after taking a look, she decided they were too violent for her for now. We’ll try again in a few years because they really do look quite good.
So while we didn’t do a lot of activities this week for Germany, we sure did come up with a lot of additions to our reading lists! Hopefully, we’ve introduced you to some new authors as well.
See you next week for our study of Russia!