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 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

"I am really pleased with Ada & Zangemann. 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 started out tinkering with radio and electronics at an early age when all electronic equipment came with a schematic diagram. Recently, almost everything is built out of mostly opaque parts, running opaque software. 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

"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, @Una, UI & Tooling Developer Relations Team Lead at Google Chrome

"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, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School

"What a fun read! I recognize myself in Ada at many moments."
—Isabela Fernandes, Executive Director, The Tor project

"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. . . . Electronics freedom means more learning and less waste, as Ada shows. 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

"The youth at the Elizabeth Peabody House enjoyed the reading of Ada & Zangemann. It was a fun and engaging read; vivid illustrations, colors, and details on each page kept them excited for what came next. The youth could relate to Ada, as they are full of great, creative ideas; that they hope to bring to life too."
Matthew Caughey, Executive Director, The Elizabeth Peabody House

“In this hopeful story Ada and her friends join a movement that started back in 1983. Their courageous adventure of software freedom and learning how technology works is a wonderful way to introduce young people everywhere to the joys of tinkering!” 
—Zoë Kooyman, Executive Director, Free Software Foundation

"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

"A cute story which resonates with kids and adults alike. The freedom to use *your* hardware and software as you see fit is a core ingredient in any technological society."
—Andrew Lewman, Chairman of Each One Teach One

"An elegant if not joyful solution to helping children and their parents understand the fundamental concepts of the freedom of expression, creation, collaboration and individual contribution free and open source software represents."
—Deborah Bryant, Board Director Emeritus, Open Source Initiative

"It's a hit -- in the first week my kid has read this book 3 or 4 times already, and says this book explains my work on software freedom finally in a way that's easily understandable."
—Karen Sandler, Executive Director, Software Freedom Conservancy

"A truly lovable story with wonderful illustrations, to teach both kids and adults what free software and open standards mean. . . ."
—Florian Effenberger, Executive Director, The Document Foundation

"This book possesses the magic we love in stories and a storyline that will spur the wonder and joy of what’s possible when curiosity turns into action. . . . Read this book and share it."
—Bonnie Kirkley, I Heart STEAM

"Ada & Zangemann is not only a utopian and charming story about Free Software and computers, but it is one about self-empowerment and also about joy in technology. . . . it may well be an eye-opener for adults, too."
—Dr. Constanze Kurz, spokesperson, Chaos Computer Club (CCC)

"I . . . appreciated how [Ada & Zangemann] took a traditional children's morality tale format and modernized it with practical hardware/software ethics in a relatable way, but not in a way that made you feel preached to or talked down to. Would recommend!"
—Kyle Rankin, author and President of Purism

"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, computer science professor and co-founder and director of Software Heritage

"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

"I loved the book; I found the theme very important and interesting, and the message delighted me (first the resourcefulness of Ada, then the demonstration which unites the whole city, and finally the Parliament which learns from its mistakes). This book is exactly what I want to pass on to my children!"
—Canelle A., 18-year-old student translator in a Parisian high school

"I think that Ada & Zangemann is a great way to learn about software and tech while also being fun and relating to real world experiences."
—Zafyr Rahman, 10-year-old tech enthusiast

"The book made me think about technology. And how amazing it is. I'm gonna work to get the government to make a law that says nobody may use non-free software."
—Rowan Wolf, 6-year-old software freedom activist

Extra Stuff 

Listen to Matthias' interviews on The FLOSS Podcast and The I Heart STEAM Teacher Podcast.

Read an interview with Matthias on