The novel “Trouble at Timpetill” is an excited Henry Winterfeld novel intended for young people and the plot is settled in the city Timpetill. Even though the time isn’t precisely determined, thanks to the inventions mentioned we can come to the conclusion that the plot was taking place in the modern age, about 20th century, during summer.
The novel has 24 chapters and the theme is the events of a city abandoned by parents. A little war for power and dominance rages on in the city.
The novel was written in the first person singular and we know that the narrator is Manfred Michael who described the events from a child’s perspective. In the beginning the novel was published under the pseudonym Manfred Michael so we can conclude that he is the narrator, writer and the main protagonist.
The narration is exciting and tense and the language is filled with vulgarisms. The characters have simple yet humorous descriptions.
The author wanted to let us know that children have their own rights and commitments and that, even if they wanted full independence and freedom, they still can’t grow up without their parents who provide them with a carefree childhood.
Time: unspecified, perhaps the 20th century, during summer
Manfred Michael’s father owns a stationary store and Manfred’s best friend is Thomas Wank. They live in Timpetill, where children have organized a group called “Pirates”. The leader of the group is Oskar Stetter and under his command children pull off pranks all over the city. One time they opened a water hydrant in the middle of the town’s square. After that principle Beese lined them up and gave them a lecture but, despite the pressure, no one ever snitched on the group. Some were afraid of it and some didn’t want to be tattletales.
Michael’s friend Thomas wasn’t scared of anyone. He was 13, tall, slim and he was into sports. He was well-natured and cheerful. Thomas thought that one day they will all be in trouble because of “The Pirates”. Michael didn’t give the subject much thought. He was hardworking and he had his mind set on becoming an engineer. The Pirates called him a geek and his friends called him The Secret Counselor.
Michael refers to the readers saying he wants to state out everything that the kids have been through when the parents left Timpetell. He wrote the story using his father’s typewriter. Parents were furious for a long time because of the pranks and the last prank was the last drop. They’ve tied an alarm clock to a cat’s tail and went the alarm went off the cat got scared, started running around town, knocked down the mailman, entered a pharmacy and started a fire. The kids loved the trouble they’ve caused until the mayor went out of the city hall. He was furious that the cat jumped on his head so he decided to put an end to the children’s pranks.
Michael went to Thomas to tell him all that had happened. Thomas decided to try and talk some sense into The Pirates and Michael was scared he will get beat up. Heinz Himmel, their friend, wanted to help but Thomas didn’t allow it. He was only 12 years old and he was tiny. Heinz also had a hunch and the other kids made fun of him because of it but Thomas always protected him and hit the ones who would mock him.
The Pirates would gather at an arena, in the horse riding hall. Thomas and Michael snuck in. there were many children and in the middle were Oscar, Willy Hak and the mayor’s son Hannes Krog. Oscar told the children that the parents were planning a revenge and he ordered them not to go home because that way their parents won’t be able to touch them. Thomas ran to the middle of the arena and started talking to the children. He explained that Oscar will only get them deeper into troubles and that they should go home. Oscar was furious and the two of them started fighting. Michael didn’t know how to help Thomas so he screamed that the parents were coming. Everyone ran away and Thomas and Michael ran into the workshop of Thomas’s father.
When Thomas’s parents airbed they went by them without even saying “Hello”. They just ignored them. All of the parents started behaving like that. The kids came home and they didn’t get beat up by their parents but there was a surprise waiting for them the next day.
Michael woke up around 8 and it was strange for him because his parents woke him up religiously around 7. He was in a hurry to get ready for school and called his mother to make him breakfast but his parents weren’t there. He went to school and on his way, he met Paul who told him that his parents disappeared and he starts crying about not having breakfast in the morning. They came to the conclusion that all of the parents were missing and not just them. There were no grandparents either.
They cut off the water and the electricity and the kids were worried. Some of the members of The Pirates started to regret their actions. Michael was convinced that his parents were hiding just to scare him. Thomas searched through the whole city but he couldn’t find anyone. The parents left them a poster in the city hall which stated that they were tired and that they left forever. Parents don’t exist so that their children could annoy them. They also let the children know not to go looking for them and to figure things out on their own.
Michael found out from Mister Kruger that the poster was composed by the principle. Kruger had a good relationship with Michael because he helped him on an occasion so he told him all about the parent’s plan. They wanted to teach the children a lesson. They were talking about the situation in the city hall when judge Drohne suggested that they should leave the town for a day so that the children would realize that they cannot live without their parents. They’ve accepted the idea and went into the forest.
They were cheerful about their little field trip. Mothers took their babies and food. When they came to the forest they found themselves at a crossroad. Since they didn’t know which way to go Krog and Beese played “Rock, paper, Scissors” to decide. They went the wrong way. They stumbled onto a stream and after passing them they were surrounded by a military for crossing the border and taken to Rettenburg. They were locked up for two days and two nights until they explained the reason for their little trip. They brought them back to the border and the worried parents started running home because their kids were alone for three days.
Kids were sitting in the main square speechless. Michael ripped up the poster. Some kids say that they don’t believe what they had read because they know for a fact that their parents have appointments the next day. They had to decide what to do. Oscar invited The Pirates because the city was now theirs and they could do whatever they please. He started handing out chocolate and candies to everyone. Those who used to stand with Thomas went to Oscar’s side. Oscar ordered the children to attack Thomas and Michael. They managed to save themselves last minute by running into the city hall.
Thomas thought that the kids went to the forest and that they should be back by the evening. An unpleasant surprise was waiting for them because the kids will turn the city upside down. They had to show that they can take care of themselves. The two boys decided to climb up on the tower to see what The Pirates were up to. Marianne joined them.
Marianne was dentist Loose’s daughter. She was eleven, had blond hair and big blue eyes. Michael’s and Marianne’s father were best friends. Michael introduced her to Thomas and he told her all that had happened after which they went to the tower. From above they saw kids yelling, honking, whistling and running around the square in the middle of which was a tent.
They broke into Meier’s toy store and grabbed the toys they wanted. They also broke into the pastry shop and the bookstore. In the end, they climbed up to the church bell and started pulling the ropes. Michael thought of going to Marianne’s because The Pirates didn’t know about her and wouldn’t think about looking for them there. When they came to Marianne’s they ate some bread and marmalade.
Someone rang the door. Karl Benz was standing there crying. He had a toothache and wanted to see Marianne’s father. Marianne sat him down on the examination chair and looked at his teeth. She had to pull out remains of chocolate out of his teeth. Karl’s tooth was fine so he decided to stay with them. Oscar was encouraging the children to be mischief so that he wouldn’t be the only one to blame. Thomas wanted to check Karl’s honesty by sending him to the main square to spy on the other children.
Karl came back in the afternoon with three more children. They didn’t want to be with The Pirates. Some of them were opening beer taps, playing music on the main square, smoking cigarettes and some girls entered shops to try on clothes and hats.
Marianne gave Roschen some food to take to her brother and sister. Everyone decided to walk her home so that The Pirates wouldn’t attack her. Otto and Trudi joined them and retold them everything that was happening. The children got thirsty from all the chocolate and since there was no water they started drinking lemonade and beer. Some children disabled a piano because it didn’t want to work. Thomas told them they should go to the train station and wait for the seven o’clock train to see if their parents will come back with it. When the train reached the station the train driver asked about Mister Werner, who was usually in charge of trains at arrival. Thomas lied that he had a headache and didn’t mention anything about children being the only people in the city.
Parents didn’t come with that train so Thomas concluded that they must be in the forest. In the end of the platform, they saw a carton of milk that was dropped by for tomorrow morning. They took it so it wouldn’t get sour.
They wanted to take the milk into the city but didn’t know how. They remembered that Pfauser had a carriage with which they could transport the milk. They went to his house and his son Max answered the door. He told them that the horse was very ill. The children had to pull the carriage on their own. They barely got it to the train station to load the milk which got a bit spilled. One person had to sit in front to control the breaks and they chose Marianne for the job because she was the lightest. At first it was easy because they were pushing the carriage downhill. The children observed them but didn’t want to help them. It was getting dark and they were scared. When they came to an uphill the carriage got stuck. Luckily Ludwig and Ernst appeared and helped them push.
A storm was coming. They came to the square and had to be careful not to lose the milk. There were toys, candy wrappers and food remains all around the square. They knew that they have to clean up the square because otherwise, their parents will go crazy if they see it. They came to the big refrigerators and all of the children that joined them on the way helped to unload the milk. They took the flashlights from Hase’s workshop and started cleaning the square and putting everything back where it belongs.
It started raining so the pushed the carriage to a dry place and they were standing there waiting for it to stop. They decided to shelter themselves some place warm and they found a restaurant.
They went to a guest room and they were completely wet and cold. There was a fireplace so they got some wood and Michael brought a lighter from Hase’s store. They set up a fire and sat by the fireplace to get dry and warm. Paul then spoke saying he was hungry and that they had to find something to eat which wasn’t so hard to do since they were at a restaurant.
Thomas decided to make a list of everything they take. There were all sorts of food: sausages, ham, eggs, butter, cheese, marmalade… They took some bread, potatoes, and onions. They placed the list on the doors. They wanted to make soup but they didn’t have any water. The children decided to gather the rain and use it for the soup.
The soup did them well. After dinner, they washed everything up and put it back in its place. They were all tired and could barely keep their eyes open so they decided to go home. It was 10:30. The moon was shining their way. They walked Marianne home when they heard some howling. They were scared because they didn’t know what it was.
Thomas ran across the square to an apartment with an opened window. Two pirates were crying there because they were afraid to be alone. They went home. Heinz started crying because he thought his mother will never come back. Thomas offered him to stay at his place and tells him that tomorrow everything will go back to normal. Michael went home because he didn’t mind being alone. He wanted to wash before sleeping but there was no water. He took off his clothes and went to bed.
Michael dreamed that he was drowning in a bucket of milk. He was woken up by someone knocking at the door. It was Thomas who came to let him know that parents weren’t back yet. He told him that they had a lot to do and that they have to be faster than The Pirates. The children locked the stores and hid the keys so that The Pirates couldn’t enter. They agreed to do a meeting and try to acquire new members.
Thomas and Michael went from store to store locking them up. Michael would write which key belonged to which store so that they wouldn’t confuse them and he held the keys in his pocket.
The meeting took place in Wank’s workshop. They had to come to an agreement about food, when and where to eat. They hid the keys of the stores in Marianne’s refrigerator because they knew The Pirates won’t look there. Their goal was to reach out to as many kids as possible before The Pirates wake up.
They decided to make posters and put them up around town. The posters were supposed to contain a text calling the children to join them and abandon The Pirates and that in return they will receive food, milk and that they will make an agreement on how to live without parents. The problem occurred when they tried to print them because they forgot that there was no power. They managed by turning the wheel which printed the posters on their own. There were a few mistakes but they didn’t mind. After half an hour they had about 200 posters and then they split up to put up the posters all around town.
Their idea worked and the children started coming to the square. They were handing out milk to the children and Thomas, Heinz and Michael were handing out bread and buns. Everyone got a portion and then the children sat in a circle in front of the city hall. The empty baskets were returned back into the shops which were, later on, locked again. Thomas asked the children to stop being mischief.
Marianne proposed to have a meal in the restaurant at noon but the only problem was that they didn’t have any power to cook a big meal. Michael remembered that there is a generator in the powerhouse. Everything Michael knew he had learned from books and now he was finally able to use his knowledge. He became friends with mister Wiese and he thought him all about the machines and how to operate them.
Another problem emerged. They didn’t have the key of the powerhouse. Fritz knew that all the spare keys of public buildings are in the city hall.
They took the keys of the powerhouse and the water supply. Michael chose 4 of the oldest and smartest kids to supervise the powerhouse and the water supply. Marianne was at the square taking care of the children and Michael, Thomas and the chosen four went to the powerhouse.
When they came back, they’ve made a list of chores and got the children busy. When they reached the powerhouse they went into the engine room. Michael started up the turbines, started the water and turn on the lights. Erwin and Emil had to stay in the powerhouse to make sure they don’t spend too much power. Karl and August were observing the water pressure in the pipes.
Thomas and Michael headed back to the city and they decided to gather all of the children in the main chamber of the city hall to discuss their further obligations.
Kids couldn’t believe what they had done in the chamber. They set three long tables, one next to another and the chamber got filled with children.
They made a lot of noise looking for a place to sit so Ludwig hit the gong when Thomas authorized it. The kids got silent immediately. Thomas got up and suggested that they should pick a president. They’ve picked Thomas. Michael was named the main engineer director and Thomas named 14 commanders which had to be obeyed by the children.
Thomas gave tasks to everyone. He told the kids to return all of the toys they took because otherwise, they won’t be getting food. They had to be awake every morning at 6 and go to bed at nine. Marianne was in charge of keeping the children clean and fed. They were divided into shifts which had various tasks. The schedule was placed on the board in the lobby.
All of the sudden a rock flew in through the window. It was wrapped in paper. It was a threat for Thomas and all of the children who refuse to come back to The Pirates. They were planning a revenge. Thomas calmed the children down and told them to get down to business and that they’ll deal with The Pirates later.
Thomas ordered for all the children that have pets to feed them. Marianne interrupted him saying that she had to go an prepare lunch if the plan on eating anytime soon. A few girls made potato soup with sausages and after the meal, they will have a roll call and begin working.
All of the boys who weren’t in either one of the groups became part of the security and their commander was Thomas. Their task was to keep the order in the streets and protect everyone from a possible Pirate’s attack. Three boys were sent into the forest to see if the parents were hiding there but they were ordered not to be seen by the parents and three boys went to the nearby city to see if the parents were there. Two boys were picked to spy on The Pirates. If anyone sees the parents coming back they had to ring the Church bells.
Minna came into the chamber and invited the kids to go and eat. The gathering was over and everyone ran to the restaurant.
There was a crowd in the restaurant. Everyone was fighting for a spot but Thomas established some peace amongst the children. He said that the first to eat are the youngest. He told the older children that they shouldn’t behave like savages because he will cut off their water and electricity. Some girls were watching if the children were eating enough, some were cooking and some were washing the dishes. Michael decided to start up the phone central. He explained to two girls how to establish a connection. Then he picked four boys to take the shift at the powerhouse and went to eat something.
After lunch, Michael went to the powerhouse to make sure that the boys took the shift and come back to the town. The square was more peaceful. The commanders were in the city hall and the security was at each corner. Everything was functioning right. They knew that The Pirates were up to something because they haven’t heard from them in a while.
Thomas and Michael called the phone central to check if everything was working but they couldn’t reach it because off Lotti, the girl in charge there, fell asleep. Marianne came to say that they were out of potatoes so Thomas sent twenty boys to go into the fields and bring potatoes. They didn’t quite know how to bring the potatoes to the city.
They remembered that Miss Weissmuller had a small car for milk transporting. They pushed the car to the square and started thinking of ways to start it up. Michael remembered his book about cars and told some boys to bring it to him. They found the key of the car in the house and Michael decided to take it for a test drive. He started the car but accidentally he went in reverse and crashed into a well. The statue on the well crashed down but luckily only the nose of the statue got broken. They decided to bring the fire truck and place the statue back up. Michael started the car again and this time he went slower to get the potatoes.
While they were driving they stumbled upon three boys who were sent into the forest. They didn’t see the parents. Michael was already good at driving the car. Walter came running so fast that Michael had to stop the car. He said that he saw The Pirates chopping down huge tree branches talking how they have nothing to eat and that they have to attack them. Thomas decides that it would be best to get the potatoes fast and hide them.
They started to digging up potatoes when they saw The Pirates standing on the other side of the field holding bats. They mocked them saying that they should dig up the potatoes so that they could steal it later. Thomas called his security to help. They went back to their work and they filled up the potato bags really fast. They went back to the city but they ran out of gas. Michael remembered that there was a tram driving from the train station to the city so they just placed the potatoes into the tram and went back.
Eugene came with some bad news. The Pirates abducted Friedrich, beat him up and let him out with a cardboard around his neck on which Oscar wrote that they should be careful because The Pirate’s revenge is coming.
Michael started the tram and the kids were looking forward to the ride. All of the sudden Albert came on the bicycle. He was attacked by The Pirates and he escaped the last minute. Thomas ordered that they need to bring the food to the city and then liberate the hostages. A messenger came from the square saying that The Pirate’s attach started. They went back with the tram and started unloading the potatoes into the restaurant. The kids were coming from all parts of the city yelling that The Pirates are attacking. They left the potatoes and grabbed their bats. Thomas led one group and Michael the other and they confronted the Pirates. Turmoil started. Michael lost his glasses during the fight and they got broken. Boys were fighting in every corner and then The Pirates took the tram. Thomas said that they need to held Oscar captive because then they will leave The Pirates without a leader and they will be easier to beat. When they got closer to the tram The Pirates started throwing potatoes at them and one part of them went to rob the stores. Michael had an idea and invited twenty guys to follow him.
They ran into the fire station and took the hose. They dragged it to the square and attached it to the hydrant. They targeted the tram and distracted The Pirates but some of them managed to save themselves and they attacked again. A potato flew directly to Michael’s head, the hose fell on the ground and there was water everywhere. They closed the hydrant and kept on fighting.
Heinz snuck into a house around the corner because it had a window directly above the tram. Hein jumped off of the window onto the roof of the tram. The Pirates didn’t even realize what was happening when Heinz released the brake and the tram started going down the street.
Oscar got his hands on Heinz and started hitting him. Thomas ran to his rescue and another awful fight started. Before The Pirates got together again, Thomas and his crew took over the tram. The Pirates ran away and some of them even surrendered.
Thomas and Oscar were the last two standing. Thomas knocked him down and ordered for him to be locked up. Heinz was on the street unconscious. He sprained his ankle so they had to carry him home. The children applauded him because of his heroic act.
The square looked horrible. It was covered with water and there were broken bats everywhere. Thomas ordered to get the square cleaned.
The next morning everything went back to normal. Everything was cleaned, organized and the shifts were done as arranged before. They gathered all of the potatoes and took it to the restaurant. The car was returned to its place as well as the hose. They accepted The Pirates, except for Oscar, Willy and Hannes. They were locked up and waiting for trial. It will be held in the arena, their hideout.
Thomas and Michael were sitting in the middle of the arena and the defendants were opposite of them. Oscar was punished by being liberated but unable to talk to anyone because Thomas forbid everyone from speaking a word to him. Will and Hannes will peel the potatoes in the restaurant. When Oscar’s punishment was said he started crying because it hit him hard. Marianne jumped up saying he too will peel the potatoes. Tomas told him that he will take him in if he promises to behave well.
Albert walked in saying that the parents are coming back. They heard the church bell ring and ran to the square.
Mister Kruger retold the parents’ return to the city. Michael purposely saved it for the last chapter. The parents were thrilled with their welcome in the main square. They were moved because the children took care of themselves. The children waited for them with flower and singing. They put up a “Welcome” sign across the square. Everyone hugged their parents when Thomas asked for a moment of silence to hold a speech. He explained to the parents that they were glad to have them back but that he hopes they have proven themselves to be capable enough to take care of themselves. He didn’t want the parents to be angry with them and the children to be angry with their parents. He hoped that from now on they will all get along better.
Characters: Michael, Thomas, Oscar, Willy, Heinz, Marianne…
Manfred Michael is the narrator of the strange events that take part in a city abandoned by parents who wanted to teach their children a lesson. He was a nice and curious boy who loved to study and wanted to become an engineer. He is hardworking, decent, and responsible and his clever advice and solutions solve many problems. The kids loved him because of his kindness, resourcefulness, and righteousness.
Thomas Wank is the real hero of the story. He is brave, righteous, witty and funny. He had a good heart and he always fought for the weak. He kept thing under control after the parents’ departure and he was a natural leader.
Oscar was a strong, disobedient, stubborn and rude leader of The Pirates. He was irresponsible and he never thought about his actions. The only person he thought about was himself and he changes in the end under the threat of expulsion from the children’s society.
Henry Winterfeld Biography
Henry Winterfeld is a famous children’s author and screenwriter. He was born in 1901 in Hamburg.
In the beginning of World War II he left Germany and went to the USA. There he continued with his writing.
He mostly wrote children book and his first book was “Trouble at Timpetill” published in 1937. He also wrote “Star Girl”, “Castaways in Lilliput” and short crime novels “Mystery of the Roman Ransom”, “Der Letzte der Sekundaner”, “Caius in der Klemme”.
He died in 1990 in Maine.