Sunday, December 09, 2007

Review: Geschichten vom Fussballplatz

Four short stories about Ole and his soccer team aimed at beginning readers. The stories are interesting, employing soccer specific vocabulary that will keep your young sports fan engaged and challenged. With pictures replacing main words in the text, and a glossary at the end of each story, it is a good way to introduce new vocabulary and longer words that might discourage a beginning reader. Part of the first level of the Loewe Reading l Ladder series, this Bildermaus book is targeted to beginning readers age 5 and above.

Review: Kunterbunte 1-2-3 Minutengeschichten

A collection of 100 poems and short stories to entertain your little ones or challenge your more experienced readers. With so many choices, you are sure to find some favorite themes, and at only 1-3 minutes long, there is always time to read “just one more”.
Kunterbunte 1-2-3-Minutengeschichten
-- Hardcover: $30.95
-- CD $27.54

Review: Du groß, und ich klein (Minimax)

In this allegory, the King Lion adopts an orphaned little elephant who can only say “Ich, klein.” The two spend their days together, like father and son, with the lion teaching the elephant all he knows. The Elephant grows bigger every day, until the King Lion says he is so big that the Lion can’t believe he is the King. So the Elephant must go off on his own to live his own life. Upon his return many years later, he finds that the aged Lion needs the Elephant to take care of him. Repeated throughout the story is the theme of “Du groß, und ich klein”.

Du groß, und ich klein: $13.60

Book Review: Fünfter sein

A good choice to read with your child prior to their next doctor’s visit. This prize winning, yet simple and elegant book is based on a poem by the famous author, Ernst Jandl. The spare, rhythmic text counts backwards from five, as the broken toys sit in a waiting room, until there is only one left and on the last page we see who and what is in the next room. The illustrations complement the text, showing a range of emotions often seen in waiting rooms, including curiosity, boredom, apprehension and fear, while the swinging ceiling light emphasizes the toys going in and coming out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gifts for 4 year old twin boys

Hi Sarah,
It’s that time of year again when I need help picking out gifts for my nearly 4 year old twin nephews who speak German primarily.

I would appreciate any book/dvd/game suggestions. You always make excellent suggestions. I am interested in the Dr. Suess book that I saw on your website.



Hi J,

Thanks for your note. Yes, the Grinch book is a classic. I've just put a new title "1-2-3 Minuten Geschichten" on the website - it's got over 200 pages of very quick stories. There is also an audiobook with the same stories - it will be in next week.

Die Weihnachtsmaus is very cute

Was können diese Fahrzeuge is a nice book with several stories about vehicles.

I think the Mini Lesemaus set is new since you last ordered

Augen zu, kleiner Tiger is adorable.

Na warte, sagte Schwarte is a very silly story about two pigs who get married and decide to paint all the wedding guests since, being pigs, they are all in the buff and dirty.

There's a great collection of DVDs called Abenteuer Sehen with 6 hours of classic shows for kids.

That should give you a good start! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Viele Gruesse,

Book Suggestions

I have gotten so many requests for suggestions lately, I thought I'd post some of them online so that others may benefit from the ideas. I will leaving names and other identifying information off for reasons of privacy.

I hope you find this information useful! If you have any questions about what books are appropriate for your child, please send an email to thea @

Viele Gruesse!

Suggestions for Teenagers

Hi! I'm interested in purchasing a few books for my son, age 17, who has studied High School German for two years. We are a homeschool family and have used an online school (German Online - Oklahoma State University) for this language study. I'm wondering if you could possibly help advise me as to what books might be an appropriate level.
Thank you for any help you can offer.




Dear L,

Thanks for your request. How nice to hear from other homeschoolers! I am homeschooling my 3 little ones (7, 3, and 1). I suggest you take a look at this series of German/English stories- I think they would be perfect for your son with a good command of German - they should be entertaining and a bit challenging. They are a lot of fun.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Viele Gruesse,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

All about Martinstag

Update: Don't miss our St. Martin's Day Unit Study!

Thanks to Thea Fortune for contributing this great compilation on Martinstag.

St. Martins Day (Martinstag) is celebrated on November 11 in many parts of Europe. St. Martin was a Roman soldier who helped the poor, was martyred and became a Catholic saint.

Some of the symbols of St. Martins are lanterns, geese, and Weckmänner. In many areas, the community participates in a parade around the town or neighborhood, with the children carrying lit lanterns through the dark November evening. Traditionally lanterns were lit by candles, but people also use glow sticks and battery powered “candles”.

For more information about Martinstag and St. Martin check out Zzzebra ( and the other websites listed below.

Many ideas for lanterns can be found on:

Heiliger Martin ( - 7 different styles, including one out of a paper bag, one using “käseschachtel” and another from papermache. The easiest lanterns I’ve seen take the coloring pages from this site, make them into a tube, and place a strip of black construction paper or black posterboard at the top and bottom – punch holes in the top to run a string through. ( ( – many kid friendly activities including a variety of lanterns.

ZZZebra ( – lots of seasonally appropriate activities for kids including a “laternen-werkstatt”.

While on parade, it’s fun to sing simple folksongs such as “Laterne, Laterne”, and “Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne”

Goose is often served for dinner on Martinstag, and Heiliger Martin has several appropriate recipes ( .

Recipe for Weckman is on Zzzebra, which is fun to do with your kids :

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Titles

We have so many wonderful new titles for Christmas! Here are a few that are sure to make your season sparkle!

Die neue Liederfibel zur Weihnachstzeit

This songbook is such a beautiful accompaniment for Christmas time. I love the colorful illustrations on the cover and throughout. My kids always get a kick out of my playing the piano (melody only!) and this book will make it easy for me to play some of these songs for them. The melody is provided in fairly large musical notation, 1 song per double page spread.

The CD is also a great addition - I'm always looking for good Christmas CDs. The children's voices are so sweet and listening put me in such a Christmas mood! Isn't it a bit early for that? :)

Listen to a sound clip.

Please note - the book and the CD are sold separately and also as a set so make sure to pick the set if you want them both.

Die neue Liederfibel zur Weihnachtszeit Book / CD Set $58.80 (save 12%)

Die neue Liederfibel zur Weihnachstzeit (book) $41.50

Die neue Liederfibel zur Weihnachstzeit (CD) $24.99

Die Weihnachtsmaus (Laterne, Laterne)

The most famous poem from James Krüss. A treat for all.

Die Weihnachtsmaus (Laterne, Laterne) $13.90

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ein neuer Assistant

I had some extra help today. The girl who packs my orders is on vacation and I was left alone to do the job myself. Yikes! Well, I must have done something right because my oldest, N, at the ripe old age of 7 1/2 joined me for the job, and we had a blast! He was responsible for folding invoices and sealing packages and was mighty proud of himself. So if you ordered over the weekend and your package arrives with a label carefully placed just so, you'll know who gets the credit.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Games for Learning

In case you don't receive the newsletter, here are some quick and easy games to play to advance your child's German. To subscribe to the newsletter, please visit our website.

Mystery Game (for beginning readers)
Gather 5-10 small objects from around the house. Raid the toybox for miniature items. Ideas include Katze, Mann, Hut, Ball, Schuh, Hahn, Auto - once you start looking, you'll find all kinds of small items with short names you can use. Write the names on slips of paper. With a great air of mystery, tell your child "I'm thinking of a secret object - can you guess what it is?" Have your child pick a slip of paper, look at the word, and select the object. Keep the selection small at first and build up as the child progresses.

Wiederholen, bitte
We have been working on improving short-term memory to aid with overcoming learning challenges. This simple memory exercise can be done whenever you have a few minutes to spare - we're trying to do it several times a day. Slowly recite a few numbers in German and ask your child to repeat them back to you in order. Start off with 3 digits and see how many you can work up to. For an added element of fun and to engage the kinetic learners, do this while tossing a bean bag back and forth.

Der, die, das
This is a form of the classic game, Mother May I? Make signs in big letters for der, die and das. The leader stands at one end of the room and the rest of the group stands several feet back. The leader holds up one of the signs and calls out nouns. When the leader names a noun of the gender matching his sign, the other players may move a step forward. When he names nouns of other genders, the players must remain still. If they take a step incorrectly, they must go back to the starting line. The first person to the leader gets to take over as leader and the game begins again. This game is a lot of fun and can get very silly.

Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes

Harry Potter #7 auf Deutsch - coming soon! Pre-order now and get free shipping.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ein Regentag im Zoo (Lift the flap)

It's raining outside my window as I type - the perfect day for the book, Ein Regentag im Zoo. It's raining for Anna and her Papa, too, when they go to the zoo, and so all the animals are hidden away in their cozy houses. It's up to you, the reader, to figure out what is behind each of the doors. Luckily, the houses are "animal-shaped" so it's not too hard to guess which house belongs to the giraffe, the snake, or the penguin. When you lift the large flap to open the door, the animal is revealed.

This is a nice, simple book with lovely illustrations, suitable for little ones and kids up to age 6.

Add some animal noises of your own for a real multi-sensory experience. I recommend going through the book to lift all the flaps before reading it with a child, since the flaps are so large and it requires a bit of patience to open them the first time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Poetry auf Deutsch

I've been loving my work lately and I think my kids are as well - we've read and listened to almost all of the new German titles - lucky us! I'd been looking to add a little poetry into our day and came across the Gedichte für Kinder CD by Oliver Steller. What a find! Olli, as he calls himself, sings and recites poetry along with his guitar, Frieda, in front of a live audience of boisterous kids. With poems by Heine, Fontane, Brecht, Morgenstern and Maiwald, there are plenty of big names.

Our favorite poem so far is called Spinne Martha - here's an excerpt:
Wo ist meine Spinne?
Wer hat sie gesehen?
Sie hat sechs lange Beine und sie ist sehr wunderschoen, ja wunderschoen...

Don't ask me why he says "sechs Beine" instead of "acht" - N surmised that maybe German spiders only have 6 legs. Spinne Martha is set to a very catchy rock beat and Steller is a wonderful accompanist as he sings and the children join in.

The enunciation on this concert-style CD is excellent and quite easy to understand for my not quite fluent German-speaking kids. Most of the poems are repeated 2 or 3 times, sometimes with music, and sometimes without and so my boys have a chance to catch words they may have missed the first time around.

I'm working on memorizing some of the poems myself and the kids will enthusiastically join me with the parts they know. We are playing the CD in the car right now so we get a good dose of it every time we go somewhere.

One caveat - the first poem is called Fisch Fasch - who unfortunately has "einen weissen Arsch." It seems that the Germans are a little more free with the language than Americans might be :)

I highly recommend this CD for kids ages 4 and up, and maybe some ambitious 3 year olds!

Gedichte für Kinder CD from Alphabet Garten

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Haufen von Büchern!

After my latest newsletter, I got so many wonderful recommendations! Thank you all for your tips and favorites. I have over 20 new books and a few CDs on the website now and the kids and I have been enjoying them all. I'm working on reviews for all of them but for now here is one of my favorites.

Emil kocht für Teddy

I love books with photographs. In this book, young Emil makes soup for his Teddy, sets the table and cleans up at the end. He reminds me of my little M who loved to have tea parties even as young as two years old.

An excerpt
Emil probiert. Hmm, das schmeckt gut!

Emil kocht für Teddy
Einfach goldig!
Boardbook, 30 pages

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A bilingual moment

Child running past loudly while mom talks on the phone to a customer - mom gets annoyed.

Mom realizes child is singing "Alle meine Entchen" at the top of his lungs - all is forgiven :)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A multilingual family story

Patricia was kind enough to share her family's story of many languages.
Vielen Dank!

~ Sarah

Let me write in English, as my fingers move faster in this language.

We are both native Germans, my husband and I, and at home we both speak only German with our children, who attend an English speaking or at least bilingual school wherever we are living (changes every 4 or so years). Result? There is no way you can tell how well a bilingual speaker your child becomes.

One thing seems to be true. Children need to be exposed to non-native-toungue in the age of four to eight months - no matter what language, even if it were Chinese or Suaheli. During this timewindow, the brain developes its "second (third etc) language center" and if exposed to another "code", the connections in this area won't be disconnected ... your ability to speak/think/dream in another code is getting hard-wired.

We see the results with our children. Both younger ones pick up languages very, very fast while for our oldest it is an ordeal each time. She learned French when she was 3 1/2 and English with 5 1/2.
Today, living in a Spanish speaking country, she is in the hightest level English class of the official IB program, but German is now difficult, although she mastered the AP German quite well ... and Spanish ... it is not as easy for her as for our other children. Our son, the middle child was born in France and exposed to French at the age of four month (when he could sit). He speaks three languages fluent by now (he is twelve), all of them without accent: German, English and Spanish. Next year he will take up French (again, after he had been (childen-)fluent in that language when we left Belgium some years ago). We will see how much will come back.

My little one ... I speak to her in German, she answers in English. She has difficulties to get a complete sentence out in German, but when at "home" (Germany) for only a week, you would not think that she never had lived in Germany or would even know another language. Although tackling the language issue from a different angle than our son (he is as well very well settled in grammar) she as well is fluent trilingual English/Spanish/German.

Well, you see: three children, three different stories. What's genom, what's environment, what's place you were living in? I can't tell. It is difficult.

Viele Gruesse an Deinen Mann. Ich denke, das beste was ihr tun koennt, ist ganz fest bei eurer jeweiligen Sprache bleiben. Du sprichst mit Deinen Kindern Englisch und Dein Mann Deutsch. Dann werden sie immer die eine Sprache mit dem einen Gesicht verbinden und nicht die beiden durcheinander werfen. Doch das funktioniert auch nicht immer, wie man bei unserer kleinen sieht - oder vielleicht doch ... da sie mit Omi, die wenig English versteht, nur Deutsch spricht, waehrend sie mit Oma, die mehrere Jahre in England lebte und vermutlich auf Englisch reagiert, in Englisch conversiert.

Alles Liebe


Friday, June 01, 2007

And baby makes three. Even if you're not a native German speaker, you can raise a bilingual!

When NJ was born 7 years ago, I had lots of time to prepare and think about how I wanted to incorporate German into his life. We wanted him to have a strong connection to Juergen's family roots in Germany. Even though we chose to live in the U.S., we hoped to maintain strong cultural and language ties "back home." In addition, Oma and Opa don't speak English so practically speaking, NJ would have to be bilingual in order to have a real relationship with his grandparents.

If you, like me, are not a native speaker, it will be a little harder but it can be done, and the rewards are great. Seven years into this adventure, I'm still learning and changing my strategy as needed. Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

1. Get educated.
Read up on bilingual children. Find out about the different language patterns you may use. You may decide OPOL (one parent one language) is right for you. Or maybe mlah (minority language at home) makes more sense. Informing yourself is important for two reasons - first, you can think through how you'll make it work in your family, and second, you'll be prepared with facts when the nosy neighbor tells you a second language can cause speech delays (it doesn't) or a relative complains she feels excluded when you speak to your child in German. Just tell her you're increasing your child's potential! If people see you're confident and educated about speaking German to your child, they are less likely to question your motives. It's critical to be prepared with research and facts, especially for a non-native speaker since you might not see much progress for the first couple years and it's easy to get discouraged.
Suggested resources:
- A Parents' & Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

2. Build a support system
If you're lucky enough to have German-speaking relatives and friends, let them know you'll be speaking to your child in German. If they are close by, ask them to speak only German to your child. It's a huge help to have other sources of German for your child. If they are not close by, at least they can provide moral support and perhaps letters, phone calls and visits.

If you don't know any German speakers, seek them out! Find a German-speaking playgroup or start your own. Consider attending a German school, either on Saturdays or during the week. German immersion schools are available all over the country and you may be surprised to find one nearby.

Still haven't found German speakers in your area? Turn to the internet! Discussion groups and blogs are wonderful for inspiration and invaluable when you need advice and motivation.

Consider subscribing to magazines for bilingual parents. A regular read on bilingualism will be helpful in keeping up your motivation.

3. Prepare the environment
Get some German books and music for your little one. This is an easy one! :) German music especially is a favorite of mine to help me remember to speak German and it's great for tired new mommies and daddies.

4. Start at the beginning
You may feel a little strange chatting away to a baby who does little more than sleep, eat, and pee, but getting into the habit of speaking German to your new baby right away is easier than starting up later. I have always sp0ken German to my babies and to this day find it difficult to speak to any baby in English! I do speak English with my children now, but that's another post :)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Books that do double-duty: Der Marienkäfer

This adorable Marienkäfer book has arrived, just in time for spring and a little nature study. My little M, age 3, is constantly on the lookout for tiny bugs, ants, spiders and the like, and this book has been an instant hit. He loves the brightly colored illustrations and the flaps, especially the one with the large flower whose petals open to reveal the different stages in the lifecycle of the ladybug.

I love the wealth of detail that M and also my 7 year old enjoy. This series is written for kids ages 2 and up but I really think kids as old as 7 can easily enjoy and benefit from reading it. It's useful for me as well to brush up on some of the nature vocabulary in German. It does feel strange to call a ladybug a "he", though. Make sure you have a bug jar and a magnifying glass handy so you can run outside on a ladybug hunt when you're done reading!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Music with a Message

You've probably heard me say it before - we love Rolf Zuckowski. His music is happy, fun, and is a sure fix for grumpy kids (and moms). We hadn't added to our Rolf collection recently but when the Top 100 collection came out, I decided to give it a try. Boy, am I glad I did!

You see, not only are the songs upbeat and great for singing along, but most of them have a message, either for kids or parents or sometimes both. I wrote about the song, Wie schön dass Du geboren bist, a while back. It still brings tears to my eyes. I could hardly listen to the first CD of this new set without getting teary-eyed. There is Du schaffst es schon, an inspiring story about perserverence. Ohne Dich, which is a real tear-jerker ("Ohne Dich wäre ich im Leben nicht mal halb so viel gelacht...") - so true. So wie Du bist is such a great reminder to treasure our kids for themselves and not compare them to others. Lucky for my kids, they enjoy the music without getting bogged down with the deeper message like their mom.

There are also plenty of important messages for kids. Mein Platz im Auto ist hinten is a great reminder about seatbelts. Frühstuck für Mama is a nice plug for forgiveness. Als ich ein Baby war has been nice for M, who at 3 years old, is feeling a little small these days compared to his big brother who can seemingly do everything.
Als ich ein Baby war, war ich noch klien,
das soll bei Babys ja so üblich sein.
Ich hatte nur drei Haare auf dem Kopf
und rutschte durch die Wohnung auf dem Topf.
Aber jetzt bin ich groß, sehr mich mal an!
Ihr werdet staunen, was ich alles kann...

I could go on and on. Go take a listen for yourself! Even if you already have a few Rolf CDs, this one is such a great value with 100 songs for under $60, I do think it's worth it. The CDs come in a box with lyrics to all 100 songs - very useful for us non-native speakers who want to sing along.

We are pretty busy around here with our business, homeschooling 3 kids, and special needs. Sometimes I forget my priorities and get bogged down in the day-to-day details. Rolf's music brings me back to earth. Rolf continually inspires me to be a better parent and a better person. I hope you enjoy him too!
Rolfs Top 100 from Alphabet Garten

Friday, April 20, 2007


I just couldn't resist :)
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Book Review: See you - im nächsten Sommer. A German - English story

See you... is the story of a male German exchange student who spends 3 weeks in the U.S. with an American girl and her family. Unhappy about the situation at first, he discovers his host is actually a pretty good soccer player and they develop a friendship.

I love the language switching that goes on in this book. Here's an excerpt:

"Let's go to that McDonald's, then!", schlug Britney vor. "Does anyone know where it is exactly?" Tobias schüttelte den Kopf. Madison sagte, "I'm not sure,
but I think it's only a few minutes from here, down that street over there." "Let's go!", rief Tobias.
I think bilingual kids will love this kind of back-and-forth between German and English. Enjoy!

Sonderangebot - Save on over 60 titles

We have over 60 titles on sale - this is a great opportunity to add to your German library.

Book Review: Inga zieht sich an

Inga is a little bunny who absolutely *must* pick out her own clothes WITHOUT any help from her dear mama who is waiting to take her to the park. As the mother of a very independent three year old, I enjoyed this book very much as I read it with M. M enjoyed it as well, nodding knowingly when Inga asserted "Ich will aber ALLEINE aussuchen!"

I also love this book because it comes with a code for a bonus audiobook you can download from the Nord-Sued (publisher) website. So M can listen to it whenever he wants, just the way his independent little self likes it :)

The book also includes a paper doll Inga with several outfits to cut out and play with. Fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Make it Stick: Tips for Active Learning

As a continuation to my posts on learning styles, I got some wonderful tips and ideas from a teacher. Although her subject is music, you could apply these ideas to German study or any other area you choose. She asked that I leave her name off for confidentiality reasons. There are some fantastic ideas here! Enjoy :) -- Sarah

I was interested in your comment about your little fellow learning math
while running around the house. A couple of years ago, I had auditioned
kids for some spoken lines in a music program in one of my grade schools.
One little girl had the most expressive way of saying the lines. It became
apparent, however, that she had a real problem when it came to learning her
lines. Simple repetition was not working, for example. It turned out
that she was considered Special Ed, and no one who knew her well thought that
she could learn the lines. So I took her down the hall, saying the lines
back and forth with me. I took her down the stairs and up the
stairs. Finally, I had her saying lines while walking backwards. Not
only did she memorize the lines for the concert, but every time I saw her in the
halls, or outside, for the next couple of years, she came to me and burst into
all the lines, delivered perfectly and with great satisfaction and pride.
She's not at our school any more, but I can't help wondering if she maybe still
knows those lines!

I think the thing that helped was that she was so surprised. Walking and
doing it was unexpected, going down stairs and up again was novel, and she for
sure didn't expect to go backwards!! I hadn't thought it through, either,
and was just trying something different to get the information through to her -
something fun unpredictable that would allow her to have fun and keep her from
noticing that she was actually drilling the information (in between
giggles). A year or so ago, I took a Suzuki course that specified learning
techniques for learning string instruments and one of the teaching tools was to
have kids play a passage in a different room each time, or find some other
distraction or novelty to pair each repetition with. The technique was
called "disguised repetition." So I found a name for my seat-of-the pants
adventure with this nice girl. I think she'll always remember that
she can learn, from that experience. That's what I take with me most
of all.

Your situation is different from the musical
application: Since you don't have to worry about bumping an instrument you
could have more freedom - have a young child say something from
under a table, or behind a couch, or hanging over a bed...or have the child
suggest a place, and if you respond by go, the child hurries there and says the
word or phrase. (And then the next time it might be a different word or
phrase.) It could even work with several children taking turns, as a game,
I think. (Another variation: whoever is "it" gets to say where the
next child says a phrase or word...or how to move while saying

At school, I sometimes alternate drill (rote learning) with opportunities
to be creative in a way that relates directly to the drilled

I also set up learning situations in which I make
mistakes and the students have to correct me, which the kids love.
Sometimes I am putting up information on the board which is almost all right and
while they're learning it, I suddenly ask them what's wrong with what I have up
there, and they study it intently and hands shoot up (or they burst out with
it!!)! Other times they know right away that I'm making mistakes for them to
find, and they love that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


The Mueller family proudly announces the arrival of J.P. Mueller, born 1/27/07. Alphabet Garten will re-open on Monday, February 5.

Viele Gruesse!
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