One of the fascinating aspects of raising a child bilingually is that you get the double whammy of books. Oh I love children's books, so many styles, so many ideas, so much creativity and imagination in them. There are books I love for the illustrations only, other for the story, then those that have beautiful rhymes, mad storylines, whacky ideas.
It's hard though finding the right books in the weaker language, in our case German. The main problem is that you really only get a feel for a great book if you see it in the bookshop, while we of course rely heavily on getting our German books through online channels as British book stores don't tend to stock German children's books (while German book stores do stock English children's books).
So for the benefit of any other parents out there who want to support their child's German in a bilingual situation outside a German speaking country, here are some of my personal favourites to share with my daughter - or should I say some of her personal favourites?
Right now, Cubling is into jigsaws. So her favourite book is one that combines a lovely story with jigsaw versions of the illustrations. It's the German version of The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The translation is really well done, you wouldn't notice it wasn't a German book to start with, it rhymes beautifully and the book is substantial enough for the jigsaw pieces not to get torn to shreds even when used on a daily basis.
Bobo Siebenschlaefer is no longer our daily book choice, but it has been for a full year. Just as well there are 4 Bobo books by now, otherwise I would have had Bobo coming out of my ears. From before she turned 2, Cubling adored these books. No day would pass when she didn't want at least one story read, if not the whole book. I'm sure she knows them off by heart by now. The illustrations won't draw you in instantly, they are plain, as are the stories. However, because the stories are so everyday and really relate to a toddler's world, they love it. Cubling also enjoys the tapes that go with it, and now that she can work the tape player herself, she can be often found listening to yet another Bobo story.
I personally love "Ich waer' so gerne Zoodirektor" but to be fair, Cubling is only starting to be a fan of it now. I love the style of illustration of the book, as well as the imaginative story, which rhymes and is a reasonable short read. Cubling hasn't really picked this book until recently, although she's always quite enjoyed reading it (when I picked it).
And just to show you that mummy and toddler views on books can be quite different, Cubling loooves "Bagger Billy", a book clearly aimed at the boys' market, a story about a boy and his crane driver dad, who ends up fixing a digger. It couldn't be more boyish. Yet Cubling will regularly insist on this book being read, although we bought it in small format and the story isn't, well, that exciting. It is to her, maybe because half of Scotland currently consists of road works (I'd better not go off a tangent here or I'll still be fuming mad in the morning).
"Der kleine Klokoenig" is the story of a boy who is learning to use the toilet. Of course I had certain motives when that book was bought. However, Cubling rather likes it and while it didn't lead her to copy the perfect loo behaviour, she rather enjoyed the idea of unrolling full rolls of toilet paper. So if you're precious about your loo paper, maybe this isn't the book for you, but Cubling is enchanted by the boys misinterpretation of the loo seat, and has endless fun telling him that it isn't an aeroplane or swim ring, but a loo seat!!!
Another series of books that I didn't think she would like until I was proven wrong is that of Wieso? Weshalb? Warum? Junior (recommended from 2 years). We have one book on the seasons and one on colours, and Cubling loves both. They are factual and interactive with flaps, and brimming with information (which I doubt will be understood by a 2 year old, but at 3, we may be getting there). The books also have a series of CDs to listen to, and while we've tried here and there, I find them still a bit too old for my daughter.
Another favourite has to be Das Monster vom blauen Planeten, an imaginatively illustrated story told from the perspective of an alien boy who catches a "monster", a girl from planet earth. Again I'm not sure if Cubling understands the complex change of perspective, but she sure likes the story and all the detail in the illustration! She is fascinated by the three armed and trioptic aliens and delights in exploring all the details in the images.
A book that has been a great success is a children's song book (Die schoensten Kinderlieder Soundbuch) that Cubling can also press buttons on. It was one she picked herself, off the shelf when I wasn't looking. While I didn't like the idea of those artificial tunes much, but to be fair, she's never learned German songs faster than with this book. She loves matching the buttons with the songs, she enjoys me singing along (which is surprising) and now she will sing herself.
Finally, Ilse Bilse - 12 Dutzend alte Kinderverse is a real treasure. It is such a beautiful book filled to the brim with old rhymes that I can half remember from my childhood. The illustrations are a bit more abstract, yet still appealing to both child and parent. I was initially a bit worried that it may not engage Cubling because the illustrations aren't very bright, but I was wrong. It is a book that is regularly picked and demanded, and mummy is told off if she tries to rush through it and leave out even on single rhyme.
I'm sure there are many more books that can be recommended, those are just the ones that we have AND were a success from age 0-3.
If you would like to buy any of them through amazon.de, why not consider going through the Mummy's Buchladen link on the top left or by clicking on the Ilse Bilse image?