Common Sense Media says

Engaging fantasy from The NeverEnding Story author.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Momo explains what an amphitheater is and includes calculations of the amounts of minutes in many hours and years.

Positive messages

Momo understands that the true value of time is in spending it with friends and doing what you love.

Positive role models

Momo shows young friends (and readers) how much more thrilling and rewarding creative play is than material possessions.


Momo is chased and menaced by the gray men.

Not applicable
Not applicable

A gray man tries to tempt Momo with material things, including a talking doll called Barbiegirl.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Nino owns a pub where wine is served. Nicola admits he drinks too much. The gray men smoke cigars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Momo, a fantasy novel by German author Michael Ende, was originally published in 1973, six years before the author's most famous book, The Neverending Story (later adapted for the popular 1984 movie of the same name). Momo ​also is the name of Ende's central character, a parentless young girl who discovers the evil agenda of the time-stealing gray men. The nonhuman, cigar-smoking gray men chase and threaten Momo and force other children into hardship, but there's no real violence in the book. A couple of real men drink wine, and one says he drinks too much. Momo is given a doll called Barbiegirl. This 40th-anniversary edition of Momo includes stylized black-and-white illustrations by Marcel Dzama.

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What's the story?

A parentless girl named MOMO lives in the ruins of an old amphitheater, where friends of all ages come from the city to visit her and benefit from her gifts as a gentle, patient listener and creative muse. With Momo's insight, adults remember to value their friendships above petty disputes, and the children become immersed in elaborate, inventive pretending. Then the gray men arrive in the city, and everything begins to change: Adults become preoccupied with saving time, to the point where they neglect their children and desert their friends. Momo uncovers the gray men's evil plan to steal people's time, but she and the other children can't seem to get through to the grown-ups. To save her friends, Momo will need the help of someone who has power over time.

Is it any good?


Michael Ende's early fantasy novel Momo has thrilling moments and a compelling plot, but it's also a charming and gentle story, espousing the old-fashioned values of friendship and imaginative play. It's wonderful the way this author is able to tell a scary, suspenseful story without any war or gore, and Momo is an adorably innocent but courageous heroine. Marcel Dzama's stylish black-and-white illustrations capture the essence of Ende's original characters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the fact that Momo was first published in the 1970s. Describe which aspects of the book seem dated, if any, and what seems modern.

  • What other fantasy books have you read with kid heroes? How does this novel compare with The NeverEnding Story, by the same author? 

  • Marcel Dzama's illustrations show several characters and plot points but no scenery. Draw your vision of what the amphitheater or the Nowhere House look like.

Book details

Author:Michael Ende
Illustrator:Marcel Dzama
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:McSweeney's Publishing
Publication date:August 13, 2013
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Paperback

This review of Momo was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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