Friday, 3 August 2012

Review: Emil and the Detectives - Erich Kastner

Published: Originally, 1929. As part of the Vintage Children's Classics list, August 2012
Pages: 153 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from the back cover): Emil is excited to be taking the train on his own for the first time. He doesn't like the look of his fellow passenger, the man in the bowler hat. Emil will just have to keep his wits about him and his money in his pocket. But Emil falls asleep and when he wakes up the man in the bowler hat is gone - and so is the money! Emil is determined to get it back. He teams up with a gang of young detectives and so begins a hair-raising chase across Berlin to catch the dirty rotten thief...

My review: Oh, I so wish I'd read Emil and the Detectives when I was younger! I would have absolutely adored this story and I know I would have picked this one up over and over again. This feels like such a timeless classic and I know I'll be reading it to my children in years to come.

Light-hearted, funny and sweet from the outset, this is the perfect book to dip in and out if you want a quick read that will put a smile on your face. Set against the backdrop of gorgeous Berlin (as many of you probably know, it's mine and my boyfriend's regular holiday destination, so I know my way around the city!), Emil's story is engaging from the moment he spots the man in the bowler hat in the train carriage - and look out for the fat woman 'twiddling her toes to ease them', I loved that detail. I've been there, fat train lady, I've been there...

The illustrations throughout the book are lovely and remind me so much of my favourite childhood books. I think this is one of the things I love so much about every book in this list - they're all so nostalgic and the stories take me right back to my younger years, even the books I hadn't read before, like this one. All of the Classic books have a number of elements in common; memorable characters, simple but perfectly executed prose and wonderful, whimsical stories that will take you out of every day life and plant you firmly in the world of the characters involved.

Emil and the Detectives is one of those books that I think may be a little underrated. It's one I hadn't read and I know a few of the other bloggers at the RHCP event where we first saw the list said the same thing. Now I have read the book I'll definitely be recommending it to anybody looking for a fun, evocative read that they might not have stumbled across before.

First line: '"Now then, Emil,' Mrs Tischbein said, 'just carry in that jug of hot water for me, will you.'"

Read if you liked…: Adventures of the New Cut Gang - Philip Pullman

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 15/20 (B)


  1. This book sounds like fun, I think I'll see if they have this at the library - thanks for the great review :)

  2. Great review - I shamefully haven't heard of this one before. I'm going to be picking up a copy as soon as possible!

  3. I just bought this book yesterday. I was looking forward to reading it, now I'm even keener having read your review. It sounds fantastic, although I wish I knew Berlin....


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