Ada & Zangemann Cover

Ada & Zangemann

A Tale of Software, Skateboards, and Raspberry Ice Cream
by Matthias Kirschner; illustrated by Sandra Brandstätter
December 2022, 56 pp.
4-Color; Hardcover

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The famous inventor Zangemann lives in a huge villa high above the city, constantly building and programming cool gadgets that everyone can’t wait to buy. But one day on a walk through town, something happens that changes the way he sees his own inventions—young people are using them in fun ways, and that make him furious. As Zangemann begins controlling all of the world’s computerized devices to do exactly what he wants, a young hardware tinkerer named Ada learns that the power of computer code can set her and children everywhere free from the villainous inventor’s selfish plan. Through clever experiments with hardware and software, Ada and her friends show the world how important it is to be able to have control over the everyday technologies we use. For readers ages 6 to 106, Ada & Zangemann will arouse children's interest in tinkering with hardware and software, and encourage their desire to shape their own technology.

Author Bio 

Matthias Kirschner is President of FSFE. Matthias helps other organizations, companies, and public administrations to understand how they can benefit from Free Software — which gives everybody the rights to use, study, share, and improve software — and how those rights help to support freedom of speech, press, and privacy. He serves on the advisory boards of different Free Software organizations, has been a consultant for public bodies and other committees, and regularly gives interviews, lectures, or participates in panel discussions about software freedom and the technical distribution of power in a democratic society.

Sandra Brandstätter is an illustrator, comic author, and character designer for animated films and series, including "Trudes Tier" on German public television and "Sendung mit der Maus." She is also the illustrator of many children's books and comics including Paula: Liebesbrief des Schreckens (Reprodukt Verlag/2016), Ben & Teo: Zwei sind einer zuviel (Beltz & Gelberg/ Author: Martin Baltscheit/2020), and L wie Liebe (Kindermannverlag Author Martin Baltscheit/2022).


"A fun children's tale about a very adult issue."
—Bruce Schneier, security technologist, lecturer, and author

"This book illustrates the power of free and open source software in a way that's both fun and accessible."
—Chris Wright, CTO and open source technologist

"A rousing tale of self-reliance, community, and standing up to bullies."
—Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author

"Introduces readers young and old to the power and peril of software. Behind it all is a backdrop of ethics of knowledge sharing upon which the arc of human history rides." 
—Vint Cerf, computer scientist and one of the inventors of the Internet

"If you have a child curious about software development, this book might be just the right thing to pique their interest."
—Jack Wallen, Linux Magazine

"Such a fun children’s book about getting hands on with tech and the importance of an open ecosystem for development. . . I love the illustration too"
—Una Kravets, UI & Tooling Developer Relations Team Lead at Google Chrome

"I hope this will influence young people, and especially those who feel 'I can not do that' to take that first step into the community of Open Source software, hardware and culture."
—Jon "maddog" Hall, Board Chair, Linux Professional Institute

“I love this book and I love that it can be shared and translated and adapted easily because licensed freely under a Creative Commons license (BY-SA).”
—Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons

"It is very important for the world to understand that ‘the right to tinker’ and ‘the right to repair’ are essential to the development of future generations. . . . I want future scientists and engineers to be able to build stuff and modify the software, with friends, in the way that I did.”
—Gerald Jay Sussman, Panasonic Professor of Electrical Engineering, MIT

"I truly enjoyed reading 'Ada & Zangemann'. And its playful illustrations. Along the way it playfully relays the idea behind #OpenSource (and #FreeSoftware). Definitely recommended - for yourself, for your nieces and nephews, anyone young at heart."
—Gerald Pfeifer, CTO of SUSE

"Ada & Zangemann tells an exciting story that will delight children and adults alike. It describes the problems of the current tech oligopolies and how people can overcome them if they stick together and dare. The text is ingeniously complemented by the illustrations, which almost pass for a hidden object book."
—Christoph Hellwig, Developer kernel Linux

 "A superb parable, and a perfect illustration of the need for digital freedoms in our daily lives. Here we're talking about skateboards and toys, but tomorrow our whole lives may be limited by monopolist technology companies. . . . the tone is positive, laughing, and optimistic for the future, so that new generations will be stronger than we have been."
—JB Kempf, President, VideoLAN

"An uplifting parable for our greed- and power-infused times."
—Dan Gillmor, Director of News Co/Lab, Arizona State University

"Explaining what we do is challenging at times, but this book does so gracefully. I'm sure this cute little story will help both kids and many parents about technological empowerment."
—Aleix Pol, Hacker, KDE e.V. President

"Ada & Zangemann proves that the argument for software and hardware freedom is simple: We should be able to do what we want with our stuff. . . . Kids and adults alike will be entertained by this book, charmed by its illustrations, and inspired by Ada’s engineering spirit and impassioned activism."
—Elizabeth Chamberlain, Director of Sustainability, iFixit

“A beautiful tale about software freedom, creativity and resilience. Such a powerful message on what a community can achieve.”
—Nikos Roussos, Tech Lead, Greenpeace International

“I read this book to my 6-year old child who was drawn by the beautiful illustrations and couldn’t wait to hear the story. It’s been the start of a much-needed conversation on out-of-the-box thinking, digital freedom, and contesting power in the age of surveillance.”
—Claire Fernandez, Executive Director, European Digital Rights (EDRi)

"The story's engaging illustrations and relatable characters make it easy for children to understand the message, while also serving as a parable for adults who may not have had exposure to these concepts. I highly recommend Ada & Zangemann to parents, teachers, and anyone who wants to inspire the next generation of innovators and tinkerers."
—Roberto Di Cosmo, co-founder and director of Software Heritage

"A brilliantly illustrated journey of discovery and resilience that will inspire any young mind to embrace their curiosity and create with technology."
—Zach Latta, Founder of Hack Club

"Ada & Zangemann does a great job explaining what open source is and why it matters in a way that is easy to understand no matter what your background is."
—Myrle Krantz, Director of Engineering, Grafana Labs

"Finally—a book for children about the virtues of tinkering and DIY tech!"
—Janet Vertesi, Associate Professor of Sociology at Princeton University

"Inspiring literature teaching children and adults lessons of ingenuity, adaptation, problem-solving and social affairs all through the lens of software freedom. The social and behavioral implications of this children's book will have a net positive result for current and future generations.”
—Douglas DeMaio, openSUSE board member

"You got to love a tech savvy heroine who teaches herself to build and code. This is a sweet book with a great message about the social importance of free software and the ability to modify and adapt our own devices."
—Mathias Klang, Associate Professor, Fordham University

"A wonderfully entertaining read with an empowering message for younger generations, one which will shape our world and the way we live in it."
—Kaye Fogarty, The English International College, Marbella

"A fun book that introduces concept of software and hardware hacking, software freedom, and the need for political advocacy. Also, it's CC-BY-SA!"
—Evan Prodromou, board member at and founder of WikiTravel, StatusNet,, and

"This book is a great way to expose people to the concept of software freedom and the concept of privacy and surveillance. I believe it is a great way to advocate for those values in a way I haven’t quite seen before."
—Henry Fisher, Techlore

“An approachable read that children and politicians alike can understand and hopefully take away some insight into the value of software freedom.”
—Open Source Tech Training

"A book that helps kids understand that the world doesn’t just happen, it is made, and that growing up is about figuring out how to pitch in and make it better."
—Matt Bailey, civic hacker and open government advocate

"Inspiring and empowering. An exceedingly relevant techno-fable for the makers, creators and inventors who will grow up to shape our future."
—Lee Hollman, elementary school technology teacher

"Encouraging creative, out-of-the-box engineering thinking, problem-solving, and perseverance, as well as endless tinkering, Kirchner and Brandstätter weave a story that will encourage children to question who owns the technology around them, and why. "
—A.R. Miller, Purdue University book reviewer

"What a fun read! I recognize myself in Ada at many moments. All I know about computers is thanks to Free Software, the internet, and the willingness of others to share their knowledge as Ada did."
— Isabela Fernandes, Executive Director, The Tor project

Extra Stuff 

Listen to Matthias' interviews on The FLOSS PodcastThe I Heart STEAM Teacher Podcast, and the Fight to Repair podcast.

Read an interview with Matthias on

Check out some amazing fan art by illustrator David Revoy.