Emil and the Detectives

Thanks to Annette, who gave Sam three German books translated into English, we’ve been reading Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, illustrated superbly by Walter Trier.

I remember enjoying it as a child, but couldn’t really remember what happened in it, so it was a delight for me as well as for Sam.

(Read Michael Rosen on the book here.)

Do you know the book?

It was written in 1929 – which itself is a delight, as it hasn’t dated, but has all those details that give a picture of another time.

Emil is travelling on a train to his grandma’s in Berlin. He has his money stolen, but instead of giving it up, he follows the theif.

He’s lucky that he meets Gustav, a boy (with a horn) in Berlin, who agrees to help him and recruits a whole host of boy ‘detectives’ to follow the thief and get the money beck.

It’s such a great idea for a story – a group of boys who know their way round the city and are organised enough to track down their man. There’s something quite innocent about it, suiting it to younger children, but all sorts of touches make it a great read even for a ten year old.

And there is a second book. As wikipedia says:

The second book did not become as well known as the first, in large measure due to its writing being shortly followed by the rise of the Nazis to power, when publication of Kästner’s books in Germany was forbidden and existing books ceremoniously burned (the first Emil book was considered too popular and too harmless, thus escaping the ban).


1 Comment »

  1. the hand of the bodger said

    Yes, a wonderful, beautifully paced and balanced book. Enchanting is an old fashioned word but its appropriate for an old fashioned treat like this. In some ways The Indian in the Cupboard puts me in mind of this book too. Incidentally, the latter is obviously Raymond Briggs inspiration for The Man; the ‘Blood Brothers’ passage pays homage to Reid-Banks.

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