Otfried Preussler

The Little Water-Sprite
The Little Witch
The Robber Hotzenplotz
The Little Ghost

Thienemann 2001 [1956], 2001, 2003, 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2017 http://dannyreviews.com/
These four short novels, written in the 1950s and 1960s, are among the most popular works of one of Germany's most popular writers for children.

The standout work, and the most famous by far, is The Robber Hotzenplotz. This is a zany tale of two boys who attempt to catch a robber who has stolen their grandmother's coffee mill. Which brings them into contact with an evil magician, Petrosilius Zackleman, and a good fairy. One of the boys is much smarter than the other — on which much of the plot turns — but in the end, with comedy prevailing, he turns out not to be all that clever after all. This is a real novel, with a continuous plot and good mixing of tension and relaxation, and was the first narrative of such a length that my daughter got really excited by (shortly before her fourth birthday).

The hero of The Little Ghost wakes up every midnight, in a chest in an attic of Castle Eulenstein, for one hour. But one day he starts waking up at noon instead, and inside the town hall instead of the castle... Creating consternation among the town officaldom, he eventually befriends some children who help him contact his best friend Mr Twoohoo the owl, who knows what is going on.

The Little Witch is more episodic, as the heroine, urged on by her raven Abraxas, uses her powers to do a series of good deeds. Her goal is to regain the favour of the big witches and be allowed to join in the Walpurgis Night dance on the Brocken Mountain; opposition comes from hostile aunt Rumpumpel. There are some twists before an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.

And The Little Water-Sprite is a series of episodes about a boy water-sprite who lives at the bottom of a mill pond. It mostly just plays on the inversions of living underwater instead of in the air, and is pleasantly whimsical but not particularly memorable.

All four of these novels are available in translation from Thienemann, pitched as ways for German students to learn idiomatic English — so the text has some phrases in bold, which are explained and translated into German at the end of each chapter. Also, while these are good quality paperbacks, they are German editions, with the spine text "backwards" and the table of contents at the end. Three of these four books — not The Little Ghost — are also available from New York Review Books, in lovely hardcover editions (using the same translations and illustrations).

July 2017

External links:
The Robber Hotzenplotz
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- buy from Wordery
- buy from the New York Review of Books
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Related reviews:
- more German literature
- more children's literature
%T The Little Water-Sprite
%A Preussler, Otfried
%M German
%I Thienemann
%D 2001 [1956]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9783522174411
%P 124pp

%T The Little Witch
%A Preussler, Otfried
%M German
%I Thienemann
%D 2001 [1957]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9783522174398
%P 124pp

%T The Robber Hotzenplotz
%A Preussler, Otfried
%M German
%I Thienemann
%D 2003 [1962]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9783522176101
%P 120pp

%T The Little Ghost
%A Preussler, Otfried
%M German
%I Thienemann
%D 2001 [1966]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9783522174404
%P 137pp