“Emil and the Detectives” begins with a subchapter where it is described why the plot is set in the city and involves the life of city children instead of the life of unusual characters and adventures. Also, the characters are introduced.
The book can be sorted in a realistic novel in which he described a childhood of a boy. The novel was published in 1928, and many believe that it could divert the direction of former children’s literature that dealt with unrealistic characters and places (fairies, wizards, and witches). This novel is located in the city, and his characters are kids that can be found in any village or neighborhood.
Although the author has written a novel primarily to entertain children, the story also carries a lesson and talks about right and wrong, hard work, honesty, and generosity.
Emil is a hard working student, the best in class. He lives in a small town in Germany named Neustadt. He lost his father early, at the age of 5 and he grew up alone with his mother. They weren’t rich, but they lived a nice life. His mother was a hairdresser and worked at home. Emil sometimes helped her with the hair washing. He would help around the house when his mother was sick.
Even though he was a kid, he loved adventures. One time he went to see a statue with his friends, and they wanted to put a hat on his head. His friends lifted him up to draw some mustaches on the statue but then a guard showed up. All of his friends started running away, and Emil was suspicious whether the guard saw him or not.
The school ended and during the break Emils mom sent him to her sister that lived in Berlin with her husband and daughter Pony. Also, Emil’s grandma lived with them. Emil got some money to give to his grandma, and he got some money for himself.
On the way to the train station, Emil got some advice from his mom on how to behave. She warned him especially about the money he was carrying. They walked by the guard Jeschke who saw Emil by the statue, and he was very scared that the guard was going to say something but fortunately he didn’t.
Emil boarded the train, and the adventure began. After a few stations, Emil was left alone with a gentleman named Grundeis. Emil noticed that his hat made him look harsh and mysterious. Emil went to the bathroom and decided to hide his money. He pinned a little hole in his coat and put the money there.
When he came back, the man was asleep. Emil tried to get some rest, but he was wide awake all the time.
Emil finally managed to fall asleep a little bit but then he had a dream that somebody blamed him for the statue and that he was forced to give out the names of the accomplices. Everyone was chasing after him, and that nightmare woke him up.
When he woke up, the man was gone but so was his money. Emil did not know what to do because his mother saved this money for so long.
Emil heard the train stopping, and he looked out the window in hope to see the man. He saw him and started chasing after him. Pony and his aunt were waiting for him, but he wasn’t showing up. They could not phone his mother because then people did not have phones.
While he was following the suspect Emil encountered a box named Gustav. Emil told him his story and Gustav decided to help him. He brought a bunch of friends, and all of them were helping Emil in finding his suspect.
All of them made a detective plan, and each one of them had an assignment. They had to get Emil’s money back and rob the robber. But they were bothered with the questions was that stealing then?
The detective job goes on. They followed their target and saw the hotel he was staying at. Emil sent a message to his grandma saying he will arrive later. Pony got her message, and she joined the group but went out of it soon because that job wasn’t for a girl.
The same night they saw a lift boy around 10 o’clock. When they came close to him, they realized it was Gustav. He became friends with the real lift boy and convinced him to give him his clothes. Gustav found out that the man ordered to be wakened at 8.
Emil made a plan and set up a meeting at 8. Tomorrow day everything went as ordered. They were all together and about 100 kids surrounded the area so that the suspect couldn’t escape. Pony joined them again.
They followed the suspect throughout the whole town, and he started acting irrationally. He went to the bank and got out the stolen money that was pierced with Emil’s pin when he saved it inside his jacket.
The police came, and Emil told them everything. He was scared to call them before because he thought that they would be angry about the statue. The police forgave him about that.
Emil ended up on the front cover of the newspaper and later on the police published that the man was a well-known robber and criminal. Emil got a big award and decided to buy his mom a coat and a blow dryer.
His mother came to Berlin, and all of them were on the celebration prepared for the happy ending.
Characters: Emil, detectives, Gustav, Grundeis – man with the hat, Pony, grandma
Emil Tischbein – the main character of the novel. He is a bit more than ten years old, as we learn when it was mentioned to attend highschool. His father died when he was only five years old, and he lives with his mother in Neustadt. They live in poverty, and the mother is forced to work hard. Emil helps her with everything, is attentive and sensitive, understanding and fair. In addition to his work at home, he is an excellent student in school and best in class. He is bold and capable of suppressing fear. He participates in many misdemeanors with his colleagues. But afterward, he feels great remorse. When he arrived in Berlin, he was fascinated by it but couldn’t imagine living there. By the end of the novel, the character remains positive figure and the son that every parent would want.
Emil’s mother – caring, diligent and full of sacrifice. The unobtrusive and reasonable behavior she shows led her son to become a great man.
Grundeis – Emil’s companion from the train. He constantly talks, numerous nonsense and jokes, but Emil couldn’t know if he’s good or bad. When he fell asleep, Emil took the opportunity and robbed him. He later learned that he had already robbed the bank. In the end, we can conclude that he was a thief and a bad person.
Gustav – the president of the Berlin company that seeks thieves. The boy that had a trumpet. Hearted, the real adventurer. During the detective quest, he performs several important tasks. He likes to live in a big city, and couldn’t imagine what life is like in a small village.
Small Dienstag – a boy who is for the time detective quest was tasked with being on duty with the phone because it is one of the few who then had the phone. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about it. He would rather race through the city with other boys, but takes one for the team and sits on the phone for two days.
Petzold – a boy who puts his curiosity before the interests of the whole detective venture. Therefore, in the end, he had to bear the consequences.
Pony – Emil’s cousin who was younger than him. She lives in Berlin and is constantly driving her little bike. Wherever Pony appears, everyone is in high spirits. She is the creator of the great ideas and is of great help during the detective pursuit.
Erich Kästner Biography
Erich Kästner was born in 1899 in Dresden, Germany. He had the title of one of the best children author.
He went to school in Berlin and Leipzig where he studied German and Roman languages, and he also had a master in philosophy.
He always wanted to become a writer, but he became an author and a journalist. He was a novel writer, script writer, play writer and a poet.
He became famous by the book Emil and the detectives that was his first book. He wrote it when he was 29. It has been translated into many languages and also some movies were filmed by it.
From his other novels, we have Emil and the Three Twins, Lottie and Lisa… He died in 1947.