Sunday, 21 December 2014

'The Flying Classroom' by Erich Kästner (Review)

My budding review assistant, Emily, made her blog debut last month, and today marks her third appearance on the site.  Yet again, it's to discuss a book she received from the kind people at Pushkin's Children's Books, and after the success of The Parent Trap, it's time to look at another by the same author.  I wonder what Miss Emily will make of this one...

What's the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called The Flying Classroom, and it's by Erich Kästner.

What's it about?
It's about some boys at boarding school and their friend, No-Smoking (a man who lives in a railway carriage!).  The boys get in trouble with the grammar school boys for burning their dictionary books - they also tie the students up and keep them prisoner!  'The Flying Classroom' is a play where the teacher takes the students on geography trips, and the boys perform the play at the end of the book.

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
It was sort of a bit confusing, and sometimes it was a bit boring, but at other times it was exciting (like when Uli, one of the boys, did a difficult jump off a ladder and had a nasty surprise...).  I liked it, but not as much as The Parent Trap :)

What was your favourite part?
Probably when the boys did 'The Flying Classroom' play because it was very exciting, and they had a surprise sentence for the teachers...

Was it difficult to read?
Maybe at some times, maybe the names of the places, and I got confused with the names of the characters - but I could understand the story :)

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
Perhaps it would be a sort of book for boys because there weren't many girls in it.  In fact, there weren't ANY girls in it except for the ladies!

Emily, thank you very much :)

As expected, Emily wasn't quite as enamoured with this one as she was with The Parent Trap, but that's because she's a very girly girl and isn't overly keen on reading about naughty boys ;)  However, she did enjoy it, and it's an interesting tale of life at a German boarding school, set within a frame narrative in which the writer (Kästner) talks about how he was pressured into writing the story!

Once again, the translation work is done by the excellent Anthea Bell, and having neglected to mention him last time, it's only fair that I talk about the illustrator Walter Trier.  On the back cover, Quentin Blake is quoted thus:
"Walter Trier's deceptively innocent drawings are as classic as Kästner's words; I never tire of them."
And as he's far more of an authority on the subject than I am, I'll leave that there :)

Emily's had great fun with the two books of Kästner's she's read, but I suspect that the books are probably aimed at someone a little older than her - I'm sure she'll still be enjoying these in a few years' time.  Which is not to say that she wouldn't mind trying more of his work - and I've heard that there's more from Kästner to come from Pushkin next year with the publication of Dot and Anton.  So, if you have children who enjoy reading, and you're looking for something a little different... ;)