Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

emilReview of Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

Emil and the Detectives was published in 1929 and remains one of Erich Kästner’s most famous works, having been translated into over 50 languages and adapted into a film by Disney, which can be rented from  Amazon’s instant video service.

Erich Kästner, a pacifist during the Nazi regime faced a publication ban and the only work published prior to 1945 that survived the Nazi book burnings was Emil and the Detectives.

This children’s book was the beginning of children detective stories.  Set in Berlin, Emil is sent on his first solo train ride to visit his relatives for the holiday from school.  His mother, a widow, struggles to work and keep a financially sound home for Emil.  She is sending him with money to give to his grandmother when he arrives and minds him not to lose it.  During the long train ride from his home in Neustadt he falls asleep, only to awake and find the money missing. Emil suspects that a man he met on the train wearing a bowler hat is the culprit.  What is Emil to do, he can’t bear to face his grandmother without the money.

Emil gets off the train and sets out to follow this man in the bowler hat, still not sure what he plans to do if he catches him.  Emil meets up with a group of youngsters from the neighborhood where he has exited the train and together they devise a plan to catch this mysterious man in a bowler hat.

I have fear that I read a slightly abridged copy of this book (above picture), which is a huge pet peeve of mine.  Leave a book the heck alone, I want to read it in its entirety and not a changed version to be perceived as more p.c. or modern, etc (off my soap box now).  The title page states translated from German, it does not state abridged or adapted, but as I was researching to write this review I came across information that seems to point to the original being about twice as many pages. I have placed a hold on a different edition from the library so I can see; despite this I enjoyed this book.  The rag tag group of kids reminds me of something you would have expected from the Little Rascals. I haven’t had a chance to watch the Disney adaptation yet as I just discovered it today while writing this up, but hope to in the near future.


One Response to Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

  1. Lynn Gerrard says:

    I am very interested to read this one in April! It does sound reminiscent of Little Rascals, doesn’t it? Poor Emil! To awake and the one thing you were meant to protect is gone! I’ll have to check the editions available from my library for longer vs. shorter.

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