Title: Emil and the DetectivesEmil and the Detectives
Author: Erich Kastner
Translator: May Massee
Illustrator: Walter Trier
Pages: 160
Reading Level: 9 – 12
Star Rating: ★★★

I can never resist when detectives are concerned…

The Story.

Emil and his mother never have extra money. That is why it is so important that he guard his wallet well as he travels to Berlin to visit his grandmother – the wallet contains one hundred and forty marks! My, what a sum!

But while riding in the train, Emil becomes sleepy and drifts off. When he awakens, the money – and the man in the stiff hat sitting opposite him – are both gone. Emil believes that where he finds one, he will find the other. So he sets out to track down the Man in the Stiff Hat…

But Emil can’t do all of the detecting work by himself. So he enlists the help of a boy named Gustav and the horde of boys in his gang. Between them all, can they lay a trap for the Man in the Stiff Hat?


Emil and his mother love each other very much. He is described thus in the first chapter.

“Emil was a model boy. You see he loved his mother. And he would have been ashamed to death if he had been lazy while she worked and reckoned and worked again. So how could he loaf on his schoolwork? How could he skip school even if he had a chance? He saw her tire herself out so that he would not have to do without anything the other school children had. How could he cheat her and give her trouble? But Emil wasn’t one of the sort that can’t be anything else because they’re cowards and stingy and not real boys. He was a model boy because he wanted to be. He had made a resolution, and it was very hard for him to keep it.” [pg. 35]

Yes, they are very affectionate towards each other. And he is very well-behaved. However, he has a tendency to act on his own.

His instructions were to go straight to his grandmother’s house, when he arrives in Berlin. But, after discovering that his money is missing, he decides instead to track the thief down, and engages in some very fun sleuthing. However, in all this time, he pays very little concern to the feelings of his grandmother who is very worried over him. In the end, when Emil wins the reward money for the capture of the thief, he plans to spend most of it on his mother.

Emil’s girl cousin, Pony, is impudent and mannish.

Chapter four records a rather strange dream of Emil’s. As is natural for a dream, it contains fantastical elements.

One child expresses her excitement by saying that she is as nervous as a witch. The children have minor fractions with one another.

‘Dickens’ is used twice, ‘heck’, ‘shucks’, ‘gee’, and ‘gosh’ each once. Luck is credited on several occasions.

Conclusion. Not especially wonderful or horrible, though in a clever style.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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