Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Read in 2018 - 9: Nachts im Park ist alles anders

Nachts im Park ist alles anders
Mona Jeuk

This was an easy read, aimed at children from about 10, and one I really enjoyed - mainly because of where the story is set: The palace grounds of my hometown.

Ludwigsburg has extensive and beautiful palace grounds which I have regularly been visiting since I was a baby; you have seen them often featured on my blog.
(For more, you can click on the label "Ludwigsburg" in the upper part of this page, or put "palace grounds" in the search box in the top left corner.)
As I got older and started to walk and talk, of course the Märchengarten ("garden of fairytales") became the most attractive part for me.
There, as if by magic, the characters and places I knew from the story books read to me by my parents and grandparents came alive. By the time I went to school, I often dreamt of sneaking into the park  at night and checking on the fairytale scenes there.

The book I am actually trying to review here tells exactly that story: At night, the park comes alive.
Some of the fairytale characters, dummies during the day, are living, breathing, thinking creatures at night. They are a bit scary, like their story character demands.
In the end, a man (a real human being) loses his life, and others are in danger until an old puzzle can be solved and the figures turn into lifeless dummies again.

This is cleverly put against the background of a growing-up story: Young Ludwig and his little sister have lost their parents in a car accident. They live with their grandma, but the elderly woman has serious health problems which prevent her from taking proper care of the siblings.
Social Services threaten to separate them from grandma and each other, and to avoid this, Ludwig hatches a plan: One night, he manages to bring his small family into the park just
across the road from where they live. In an old gardener's house (the house really exists, like all the other places mentioned in the book), they set up their new living quarters, well hidden from the prying eyes of Social Services and nosy neighbours.

But as they become more and more aware of strange goings-on in the park at night, with each passing day and week they spend in hiding, the situation becomes more dangerous.
For the reader, tension remains until the end, even though quite a few developments are rather foreseeable (it is a children's book after all).
Who will "get to" Ludwig, Matti and their grandma first - Social Services, the police or the out-of-control fairytale characters?

As I said, I really enjoyed this book mainly because of its setting and because it picked up my own imagination as a child. Without the link to a place I have known so well all my life it probably would not have interested me at all.
But the author does a good job of keeping the story going, and telling dramatic events without them being too scary for children. This was (of course) a free download at the Kindle shop.

The author (who was completely unknown to me) is only one year older than I. She grew up in another town near Stuttgart and often came to visit Ludwigsburg and its fairytale garden during her childhood and youth. She now lives in a small town within walking distance and has written several children's books set at places of interest in our region.


  1. It can be so satisfying to read a book set in a place one knows well. And this sounds like an interesting story, as well. I am wondering if I should get it for my granddaughters. But if I would read a book set where I live I would have to write it first!

    1. I am not sure your granddaughters would easily relate to the book, since (to my knowledge) they have never been to Ludwigsburg themselves. But the story as such can certainly be enjoyed without personal knowledge of the place.

  2. I visited the Maerchengarten a couple of times as a child, and I have always loved it. I actually don't know if the MG is still as I remember it, but I am keeping my fingers crossed to this day that they never make the decision to 'update' the fairy tale elements and make them more modern or more 'Disney'. It's charm lies in the fact that everything is very old and very simple and, yet, very entertaining for small children and any adults who have visited the MG when they were children. I remember one part of the MG being a little old house where, when a button is pushed, a window shutter slowly opened and a witch looked out. At this point we would jokingly say the typical Schwaebisch: "Mer kaufet nix!"

    1. Dear Iris, the Märchengarten is still charming, but new fairytale scenes have been added year after year. The most recent ones are nice with lots of attention to details, but there are a few from "in between" years that I am not very happy with. For instance, the new Dornröschen is nothing like the old one, which in my eyes was really beautiful.
      The Lebkuchenhaus with the witch is still there, and she still looks out of her window when you rattle the handle to her garden gate - and she still calls out in broad Swabian "Knuschber, Knuschber, Knäusle, wer knuschbert an meim Häusle?" :-)

  3. The garden you describe sounds delightful, no wonder someone else chose to write a book for children set there! Now I'm off to take a look at some of the pictures you've shared of it...thanks, Meike!

    1. You are welcome, Jennifer! The entire place is delightful, whether you visit the fairytale garden or not, and no matter what age; there is something for everyone.

  4. How interesting to have someone writing about places you know well. I wonder if she does readings and events in local bookstores. I couldn't find the search box on your page so I couldn't see if you had done any posts on the fairytale gardens, but they sound wonderful. You might have posted in the past, but although I have followed your blog for quite a while now, I haven't noticed them. So, perhaps you could supply the link, or, if you haven't posted pictures, please take some! :)

    1. Dear Jenny, the search box is at the very top of the page, above the header "From My Mental Library", in the far left corner. It is a standard feature blogger provides on every blog, including yours :-)
      You won't find pictures of the fairytale garden on my blog, as I have never taken any photos there. I meant the pictures I have shown time and time again of the beautiful palace grounds as a whole. The fairytale garden is just one part of the park.

    2. PS: Here is a link for you to the official website, with some pictures and the description in English: