A Selection of International Children's and Youth Literature

German / Germany

Schwarze Häuser
(Black houses)

Ludwig, Sabine (text)
Ludwig, Emma (illus.)
Hamburg: Dressler, 2014. – 349 p.
ISBN 978-3-7915-1204-4

Germany / 1969-1970 – North Sea – Children’s rehabilitation centre – Child abuse

„Children’s rehabilitation centre“, that does not sound like fun and evokes rather sad memories of aluminum pots with bland rose-hip tea and bed rest at 8 PM. If only that would have been all! But there was a lot worse: In her new novel, Sabine Ludwig tells of sadistic female educators, who run a children’s rehab home on the North Sea and maintain a despotic regime. Absurd punishments are part of the daily routine, the food is inedible, and the children are subjected to questionable methods to harden their bodies. “Schwarze Häuser” is based on Sabine Ludwig’s own experiences in a rehab home when she was ten years old. She wisely resists the temptation to stereotype adults as all bad and children as purely good. She creates complex, and ambivalent child characters, little opportunists, who also support each other and draw strength from unity to survive the six long weeks in the “black houses”. (Age: 10+)