Coming of Age

On this page:

  • Acht, neun, zehn
  • Insekt
  • Punkrock Heartland
  • Die sechs Schüsse von Philadelphia
  • Vakuum
  • Vier Augen

Bellstorf, Arne.  Acht, neun, zehn. Reprodukt, 2005.

ISBN 13:978-3931377984

Sample Text: The protagonist’s mother on the telephone: ,,Aber er hatte doch diese Freundin in Hannover? Ha, ha..ja. bestimmt.  Natürlich komme ich, Beate.  Immerhin war er ein Arbeitskollege von mir.  Ach, ganz gut so weit. Ich habe ja noch zwei Wochen Urlaub, und im Moment halte ich es auch ganz gut zu Hause aus.  Ich habe gar keine Lust woanders…. Du meinst mit Christoph? Er wird nächstes Schuljahr die Klasse wiederholen. Aber das ist seine Sache. Da mach ich mir keinen Vorwurf oder so…”

Acht, neun, zehn is a coming of age story about a boy who has to repeat 10th grade.  His parents are divorced and he and his mother do not enjoy frequent or meaningful communication.  Trying to keep busy during a long and boring school break, the protagonist finds new hope when he meets a girl.

The artwork is done in a simple and flat style with little color and no shadowing.  The text would be great to teach conversational and common phrases.

acht neunacht sample page

teenSexual content.  Brief female frontal nudity.

Hommer, Sascha. Insekt. Reprodukt, 2006. 

ISBN 13: 978-3938511282

Sample Text: Children at Pascual’s new school: ,,Hört auf!” ,,Was habt ihr denn?” ,,Lass los!” ,,Los, hau ab!” ,,Ich geh ja schon.” ,,Ist alles in Ordnung.” ,,Wieso habe sie sich nur gestritten?” ,,Ist doch klar, oder?” ,,..sind beide in dich verknallt.” 

A story about Pascal, who goes through all the phases of his life and grows up just as any other young person would.  His city, however, is enveloped in a cloud of smoke/smog that leads to the constant ,,schlechte Sicht.”  Ostensibly for this reason, he has never noticed that he is an insect. He notices that about himself only after he moves away from the only surroundings he has known.

Roughly more than half of the illustrations are wordless.  Most of the pages consist of four equal sized panels, but some contain one full page panel.  Pictures are done only in black and white with a distinct stippling effect. Because of the lack of words, many of the pages would work well for classroom storytelling activities and description activities at the lower levels.   The dialogue that is provided is highly conversational and would lend itself well to activities with the goal of introducing students to conversational phrases. Because some of the phrases are not those that students might use, the dialogues could also open up discussions about register.

Insekt coverinsekt sample

rating pending

Lirium, Andi.  Punkrock Heartland. Männerschwarm, 2010. 

ISBN 13: 978-3939542926

This graphic novel follows the adventures of Bastian and his friends who live amid the punk culture of Hamburg, Germany. Bastian is twenty years old and ran away from home when he was 13.  He then joins a band of punks in Hamburg and begins an affair with Zottel; and later finds out that Zottel has a girlfriend.

punkrock coverPunkrock3


Scheel, Ulrich. Die sechs Schüsse von Philadelphia. Avant, 2008. 

ISBN 13: 978-3939080312

Sample Text:  Dialogue between two of the friends from early in text: ,,Ich fand’s echt fies, dass die Brennecke noch eine Woche vor den Ferien ‘ne Leistungskontrolle schreibt…” ,,Ach, soll die doch! Physik kann ich. Viel schlimmer ist, dass wir nach den Ferien wieder das M.S.F. ausformulieren dürfen.” ,,Das was?” ,,M.S.F. Mein schönstes Ferienerlebnis!” ,,Das M.S.F.! Das kann Sabine total gut. Die is super in Deutsch!”

Setting: A sleepy small town in East Germany.  This graphic novel tells the story of the resident village clique.  Their summer vacation takes a surprising and disturbing turn when they find a wartime revolver, which comes to define their subsequent experiences and their road to maturity.

The book touches on  GDR specific themes as well as universal themes of naiveté, search for love, dangers that can grow out of boredom, and bad judgment and violent behavior that can emerge among misunderstood and attention-hungry youth.

Sechs Schüsse does not have a typical graphic novel look with panels and frames. Instead it looks as if the author produced a series of illustrations and then added captions. For this reason, it takes on a chaotic and disorganized look that corresponds to the subject matter dealing with a group of youths confused about life choices.

This book won the ICOM Hauptpreis: Bester Independent Comic 2009.

ICOM Webseite

die sechs schüsse coversechs schüsse sample

teenmatureI assigned a dual rating to this one because it contains very important themes for teens to read about and understand.  The novel does contain, however, quite a bit of suggested violence with the revolver, sexual content and nudity.

Jüliger, Lukas. Vakuum. Berlin: Reprodukt, 2012.

ISBN 13: 978-3-943143-15-7

Sample Text: From the first page: “Meine Mutter hat mir an diesem Morgen Mitnehmbrote gemacht. Damit hatte sie aufgehört, als ich zehn geworden war. Keine Ahnung. Vielleicht hätte mich das noch nachdenklich machen sollen.” 

Summary from the jacket copy: The first warm days of summer.  A boy is bored. Only when a girl seeks his attention and talks to him do things suddenly seem more interesting. They spend more and more time together–the world becomes more confusing but also seems to blossom. That is until the town is shaken by a tragedy: a young boy dies.  They soon realize that not only their school days are coming to an end.  Vakuum: a distillation of the feeling of that last summer before everything changes for good.

Vakuum‘s artwork  with its subdued browns, blues and tans, reflects superbly the moods, themes and feelings that the plot and the characters convey.  The graphic novel treats a range of topics that are important for today’s teens: substance abuse, depression, suicide, intimacy, and school violence.

Deutschland Radio clip

Blurb from

Hamburger Abendblatt review article


teenSome nudity, gun violence.

Hommer, Sascha. Vier Augen. Reprodukt, 2009. 

ISBN 13: 978-3938511596

Sample Text: The first page, the narrator with his dog in a forest: Narrator: ,,Kommst du? Hier entlang.” Dog: ,,Ist es noch weit?” Narrator: ,,Nein, wir sind gleich da. Bleib doch nicht dauernd stehen! Hier ist es. Na, gefällt es dir? Dort vorne habe ich manchmal übernachtet.” Dog: ,,Aha, und wieso?” Narrator: ,,Ich habe mich hier wohlgefühlt. Kommst du zu mir? Dann kann ich anfangen, die Geschichte zu erzählen. Sie beginnt zu einer Zeit, bevor wir uns kannten.”  Dog: ,,Was?! Das kann ich mir gar nicht vorstellen! Egal, erzähl trotzdem!” 

Setting: a small city in the Black Forest, late 1990s.  Sascha is about to graduate from high school. His seemingly bright future is darkened, however, by the news that his friends have been taking drugs and one has become anorexic.

The novel features a fair amount of direct picture to text match, which would make it more accessible for more levels. As the above sample text indicates, the story is written in a conversational easy-to-understand style.  On a vocabulary level, the story offers a copious amount of extremely practical words and phrases.

Sascha Hommer blogspot

Süddeutsche Coverage

vier augen covervier augen sample 1

teenmature I’ve assigned a dual rating here because I think the themes covered are some that would be very important for teens to read and talk about.  It also ultimately contains the message to get clean. The book does, however, feature very explicit scenes depicting drug use.