The fact that Andreas Steinhöfel is a gifted narrator has been verified for years in a wide variety of media: in books, of course, and audio books, in the cinema, also on television, for example in the mini-series “Very meschugge? !”, which recently ran at Kika.

And what about comics?

Steinhöfel is also represented there as an author, because Peter Schössow's illustrations for his "Rico & Oskar" children's novels provided the templates for some comics, which, however, were no more than just another by-product of the widely used successful series.

Steinhöfel did not rewrite them specifically.

Andrew Plathaus

Responsible editor for literature and literary life.

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But now there is a Steinhöfel comic that at first glance looks like secondary use, but is much more.

"Very meschugge?!" uses the plot of the six-part Kika series, but offers a deeper look at the unstable friendship between Charly, Hamid and Benny, three twelve-year-olds from an unnamed small town, who first become estranged in the course of the events and then get together.

That doesn't sound unusual for this age, but Steinhöfel, like every experienced author of young people's books, tends to work on larger themes in his stories - one could also say: adult ones.

Children love to read beyond their age, wanting to be challenged with questions that they approach instinctively rather than from life experience.

In the case of "Full meschugge?!" it is the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

Through the death of his grandfather, Benny learns that his family is Jewish;

his parents had previously kept it from him for fear of gossip.

Benny's involuntarily newfound identity is disturbing to Hamid, who grew up in a Muslim family with reservations about Israel, which he now transfers to his friend.

What Charly, on the other hand, cannot understand, whose attempts at mediation are viewed by both boys as unwanted interference by a girl who, as a "normal" German, cannot understand either side.

And around this center of his story, Steinhöfel has woven a web of family and school relationships that make everything even more complicated.

A lot of material for just two and a half hours of television.

Almost three hundred pages of comics offer more narrative possibilities.

And Melanie Garanin as a draftswoman makes good use of them.

Especially formally.

What she does there is rarely seen in German comics: constantly changing page architectures, metafictional inserts, even a format change when the events briefly shift to a cave system - "Tom Sawyer" sends greetings and is also greeted back from the comic - which is why Garanin suddenly has her pictures tilted ninety degrees so that you can read the open book upright and feel the depth of the abyss.

Imagine this happening on a television screen.

Books offer clear advantages through such manageability.

In addition, Garanin ties in stylistically to such wonderful role models as Anke Kuhl or Mawil: In Germany, a specifically cartoon-esque comic aesthetic for children is currently triumphant.

But manga kids will also have fun, because Hamid, as a talented draftsman, shows his inner workings in manga sequences.

For this, Garanin has won the relevant competent colleague David Füleki as co-artist: comic in comic.

Great.

Andreas Steinhöfel, Melanie Garanin: "Completely meschugge?!"

Carlsen Verlag, Hamburg 2022. 288 pages, hard copy, €20.

From 10 years

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