Friday, August 18, 2006

Emil and the Detectives

This children's book was translated to English from German; the author is Erich Kastner. My copy is one of those old paperbacks from Scholastic. It says copyright 1929, second printing 1965. At the beginning are an introduction by the translator, May Massee, a few translations for names, and then a few characters and places are each introduced on their own pages with small illustrations. Here is one I liked especially because of the last two lines:

Eighth: The little branch bank

In all parts of the city the big banks have their branch offices. There, if you have an account, you can cash checks. Sometimes, too, the apprentices and messenger girls come to change ten marks into a hundred tenpenny pieces so their cashiers can have small change. And whoever wants to can have dollars or French francs or Italian lire changed into German money here. Even at night people sometimes come to the bank, although there is no one there to wait on them. So they have to help themselves.

The whole story is full of these little subtle jokes, and I consider it fun reading besides being a rather charming story in its own way.

Huh. I just found out that this Erich Kastner is the same man who wrote "The Parent Trap", called "Lottie and Lisa" originally. I didn't know that story was a book before it was a movie, but why should I be surprised? I wonder, is the Parent Trap book that much better than the movie, the way the books for "101 Dalmations" and "Mary Poppins" are so much better than those films? I'm sure it is, since Kastner is touted as "one of the most famous German authors and children's writers of the 20th century." Looks like Emil was made into a movie, too, as well as a television show.

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