Disclaimer: “Bad Grains” was graciously gifted to us by the author. However, all views and opinions expressed in this article are entirely our own. Also, please keep in mind that this article contains affiliate links marked *.
If you’re an expat living in Germany or simply interested in a captivating read that delves into German folklore, “Bad Grains” by Susanne Schmidt* is a must-read adventure crafted for young readers aged 9–14. The tale takes place in the small town of Fels, a fictional town located right here in Franconia. Although the book is written in English, it’s sprinkled with German nuggets that will have German readers and local expats alike smiling in recognition.
The narrative starts a few days before Halloween as the protagonist, Jo’s brother Hektor mysteriously vanishes in a field on his way home from school. Things take an exciting turn as no one, but Jo and Hektor’s friend Daniel seems to remember Hektor’s very existence after his disappearance. Then, an encounter with members of the Strawberry Circle changes everything. As it turns out, the Rye Mother—based on German folk legend the Roggenmuhme—has been making children in Fels disappear for centuries.
Book Club Discussions
As part of our Global Locals book club, we enthusiastically discussed the story. Gathering over dinner on a Thursday evening, we delved into the mysterious world of Fels, discussing the enigmatic plot and characters. Although targeted at young readers, the book intrigued us all with its unique blend of English storytelling infused with German nuances, a testament to our shared experiences as expats in Germany.
We explored the complex sibling dynamic between Jo and Hektor, debating what we would have done in Jo’s shoes, especially given their less-than-ideal relationship. Despite their differences, Jo’s unwavering determination to rescue her brother showcases the power of familial bonds. If Jo despised her brother, this would have been the ideal time to experience life as an only child, as nobody even remembered Hektor. However, it was evident that even in strained sibling relationships, a strong sense of responsibility and love triumphs in challenging situations. We also explored the psychological effects that losing someone no one remembers could have on someone.
A Tale of Turnips and Legend
This part of the storyline piqued our interest, particularly choosing a turnip as a prop in the tale. We couldn’t help but ponder why a turnip was chosen over the more conventional pumpkin, sparking a lively debate among us. Some of our members had sharper memories than others and engaged in a friendly argument, speculating whether it was the size or the fact that turnips are grown in Fels that motivated Jo’s choice. However, our discussion came to a resolution when we revisited a specific part of the text that shed light on this:
Grandma looks down her nose at me. “Are you really going to lug around a Halloween pumpkin? Turnip ghosts are much more portable.”
“Doesn’t matter whether you carry a turnip or a pumpkin; the important part is that your lantern had its roots in the soil of Fels. All the effort and love that went into growing the plant – that energy will ground the lantern in this town. Like an anchor connecting the souls of the lost to our reality.”
This insight added depth to our discussion, suggesting that both the size and the fact that turnips are grown in Fels contributed to Jo’s choice. It was a fascinating aspect that blended practicality and tradition, embodying the essence of the haunting legend that served as the backdrop for the narrative.
Recommendation: A Must-Read for Expat Families
“Bad Grains” remains a delightful and engaging read for youngsters. We recommend this book to all expats in the region with children, inviting them to unravel the magic of spooky folklore infused with the essence of German traditions. It’s a literary escapade that intertwines culture, courage, and friendship, leaving readers eagerly anticipating the subsequent books in “The Order of the Strawberry Circle” series. So, grab a copy* and embrace the thrill of this enchanting adventure!
As we eagerly anticipate our next book club meeting on Friday, October 20 at 6pm, we’re set to embark on a new literary journey through “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan*. Become a Global Locals member to join our next book club meeting for an engaging discussion on this compelling read.