A Hare with a Message


6. August, 2021 Nordschleswig/Apenrade
Last updated: 18:18 hrs.

Family holidays on Danish islands inspired Thomas and Angelika Bernhardt to write their first children's book. In an interview with the Nordschleswiger newspaper the couple explain why they have written it in several languages, how they became authors and why it's more difficult than many people imagine to write books for children.

The first book by Thomas and Angelika Bernhardt I'm Biba, the Island Hare describes the adventures of Biba and his animal friends on a Danish island.
A short introduction to the characters is followed by three short stories. According to the authors, the stories are well-suited to being read aloud during a literary evening. The first story is about Biba and his friends, the second about a huge surprise for all the animals and the third about a race round the island.
In the interview, Thomas and Angelika answer questions about their book and their experiences as authors.

Thomas and Angelika published their first book I'm Biba, the Island Hare last July.
Archive photo. Photo: Paul Sehstedt

This is their story
Why did you choose a hare as protagonist?
Angelika: We got a lot of inspiration from our family holidays on the island of Fanø. There are hares everywhere. Our children love them and we share their enthusiasm.

What's the message behind your stories?
Angelika: The surprise story is about friendship, our most valuable possession, and the surprise is not a material one.
Thomas: The race round the island shows that we can succeed at almost anything if we try hard enough. At the same time, the story shows us that there are limits – we should always be honest and not hide secrets from one another.

To which target group is your book addressed?
Thomas: Our book addresses the four to nine-year-olds. It is also very suitable for parents who want to read to their children. It could be a little too difficult for very young readers but should present no problems for eight to nine-year-olds.
The authors

Are you professional writers?
Thomas: No, I've worked in the building sector for the past 40 years. As a result, I've had little opportunity to busy myself with writing but I've always taken a great interest in creative work.
Angelika: For the past 14 years I've worked as a translator and private tutor for English and French and am now self-employed.

What motivated you to write a children's book?
Thomas: I can still remember the stories my father told me when I was a child and to this day I often let them go through my mind. It's something I want to pass on to other children.

Angelika and Thomas have integrated the writing process into their daily family life. As a result, they are not under pressure and can really enjoy writing.

Language diversity in a children's book.
Why did you decide to print the German, English and Danish versions in separate books – would it not be more practical for learning the languages to have them all in one book?

Angelika: Perhaps it would but we didn't want to create a learning aid. We wanted to do justice to each language and having several languages in one book would involve more page-turning and be rather inconvenient.

Do you think it is particularly easy or difficult to write children's books?
Angelika: Particularly stimulating. It's not easy to write a book for children which is understandable, interesting and amusing. Adults think in a much more logical and structured manner.

Thomas: It took some time for us to find what children really like but we didn't force ourselves to do it. The writing process just continued so we took or time with the rest and never lost our enthusiasm.

What is important regarding the language and content of children's books?
Angelika: We've tried to keep everything simple and neutral. It's important to focus on the choice of words and to keep sentences short and easy to understand. There should be a balance between familiar and not so familiar words so that the children learn while listening or reading.
It's also important that children identify themselves with the story.

From an idea to a book
How did you proceed after taking the decision to write a book?
Thomas: Six years ago I started playing with the idea of writing a book. Over the years I entered all my thoughts into a Word file and at some stage my wife did similarly.

In July 2020 we at last decided to start writing. The draft was ready in March this year and we already knew roughly which illustrations we would like to have.
Then we placed an enquiry with the School of Art and Design in Kassel to which some of the students responded. Having seen Dan Wang's work and after a telephone conversation with her, we were certain that she was the one to do the illustrations. At the same time our texts had already been translated into other languages.

Angelika: Dan Wang formatted the illustrations and our texts according to the printer's requirements, thus providing us with a printable file. We engaged several printers for producing sample books. We were more than satisfied with the work of a small family business in Offenbach and gave them an order for a first impression of 700 books, 350 each in German and Danish.
Thomas: We sent books to various bookshops in Germany and Denmark. At the moment we are in a dialogue with the potential sellers – including some in Apenrade and Hadersleben. And we're in the process of creating a website on which we shall also offer our books.

The financial aspect
Can you earn money with children's books?
Angelika: We decided to bring the book onto the market without engaging a publisher. This makes us independent of booksellers and the copyright for the translations. On the other hand, we have had to invest around EUR 8,000 in advance for the first impression. We hope to recover the costs at some stage

As the book hasn't been on the market for very long we can't yet draw a balance but at the moment we can't make a living out of it, nor do we want to.
Thomas: By cooperating with a student we can save a lot of money on the illustrations. Although Dan Wang has already passed her final exam and is still a postgraduate student, a professional illustrator would have cost us much more.
Do you want to write further books?
Angelika: Yes indeed. The next book is a Christmas book with Biba. The German version is almost ready but still needs some final touches plus the translating into Danish and English. It will be available from the middle of November 2021.

Right now we are concentrating on appropriate merchandising for our book. We shall soon be offering T-shirts, sport bags and mugs on our website, all with a Biba the hare motif.
Animals at Christmas Time –
Couple Publishes a Second Book
28 September 2021 Nordschleswig
Last updated: 14:35 hrs
Thomas and Angelika Bernhardt told numerous stories to their children. The idea of writing a children's book was thus born. 
Following the animal adventure story on a Danish island in their first book, Thomas und Angelika Bernhardt have now written a book about Christmas. It has been translated into three languages and describes what happened when Biba the hare and his friends went ice skating, how they spent St. Lucia's Day and what they did on Christmas Day.
Just a few months after the publication of their first book "Ich bin Biba, der Inselhase"/"Jer er øharen Biba", Thomas and Angelika Bernhardt have written a second children's book.
The texts and the length of the sentences in the Christmas book are shorter than those in the first one and make it easier for children to follow the story. The book is published in three separate editions in German, Danish and English with the respective titles "Biba und die Weihnachtszeit"/ "Biba i juletiden"/ "Biba’s Christmas".
This is the story
The animals on the island are slowly preparing themselves for Christmas. The towns and villages are being brightened up with all sorts of Christmas decorations. The air is full of sweet scents which the hare Biba and his badger friend Villads follow.
On 13 December the animals also celebrate St. Lucia's Day. In their celebration, the deer Lone walks along the beach. All the animals have worked together to dress her up in a befitting manner.