Why Saša Stanišić wrote a very good children’s book

With his new book “Wolf” Saša Stanišić shows himself to be a funny and well-considered storyteller for children. The topic should be familiar to many.

The writer Saša Stanišić is familiar to adults, now he has written a novel for children.

The writer Saša Stanišić is familiar to adults, now he has written a novel for children.dpa

The title “Wolf” suggests an animal story, but this expectation, like some others in the book, is not fulfilled. Saša Stanišić, famous for his novels “Before the Festival” and “Origin”, has published a children’s book, a very good one. His first-person narrator has to go to summer camp. He doesn’t like nature, doesn’t like adventures to experience for himself, he prefers to read.

For a long time he avoided revealing his name when telling the story. This is a nice little trick by the author that makes you realize: the name is not important for the story. Only the retelling would be easier with him.

“Of course we’re all different, blah blah”

The ego is different in many respects than the children traveling with you. Different and unobtrusive. Not like Jörg, who he ends up next to on the bus with whom he will share the hut. Stanišić writes: “Jörg is just one of those people, everyone knows him. One who is different and please don’t get me wrong! Of course we are all different, blah blah.”

The author takes up what well-meaning adults claim when they want to support children in their individuality. Such words are of little use when opinion leaders single out someone for bullying because of their way of speaking or their zeal, their dress or their physical characteristics.

“Jörg is unique like everyone else and different like everyone else, but he is identified by the others different done, do you understand?” The narrator apologizes for the made-up word. He often reflects on his narration: “In this story I’m the grouch, but a bit likeable, and Jörg is the victim. I haven’t thought about the end yet.”

The story spans a week; Jörg often stands out and the narrator will suffer for not being brave enough to stand by him clearly. He is torn between his own strangeness towards this boy and his fear of the consequences of his courage. Stanišić doesn’t spell it out, he shows it, inserts it between funny and disturbing moments.

The wolf represents a feeling

The wolf of the narrator, who is not interested in nature, is not made of flesh and blood, but it is definitely dangerous. Stanišić takes it as a magical image for fear, the meaning of which is also revealed to younger readers. The end of this children’s novel is open in a way that forces, no: invites, to think further. The narrator doesn’t push, he ensnares his audience with the tone of his sentences and the urgency of his subject. The pictures by Regina Kehn carry the mood wonderfully.

Sasa Stanišić: Wolf. From eleven years. Carlsen, Hamburg 2023. 192 pages, 14 euros

Reading for school classes (Level 6 and up) on June 1 from 10 a.m. in the live stream of the Junges Literaturhaus. Registration: [email protected]

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