On banned books

I have been neglecting you all for a few days; I’m sorry! Even though I haven’t been blogging, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. In the past few days, I have finished The Silver Sword, Emil and the Dectectives, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and have made a decent way through the second book of A Series of Unfortunate Events – A Bad Beginning.

Out of those four books, my favourite without a doubt was Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. This book was simply too adorable! It tells the story of a young boy who is traveling from his German village to Berlin by train to visit his auntie and grandmother, but he falls asleep on the train and finds that the money he has been entrusted by his mother to give to his grandmother has been stolen by the bowler hat gentleman who was sitting in the seat opposite him! Not wanting to arrive at his grandmother’s doorstep without the six pounds he was supposed to give her, Emil slips of the train, follows the man in the bowler hat, and makes friends with a group of Berlin boys, and they promptly become the ‘Detectives’, determined to get the money back from the thieving bowler-hatted man.

Emil and the Detectives was published in Germany in 1929, and is Erich Kastner’s most beloved story. However, during the Nazi regime, it was deemed ‘anti-german’, was banned, and burned. Kastner, who refused to leave Germany, had to watch copies of his book being thrown onto bonfires. This, to me, seems unfathomable – this book is so charming, so adorable, but so harmless, that I cannot see how the Nazi government could have decided that the book was dangerous and had to be burnt! The fact that a children’s book can be labelled dangerous seems strange; however, several children’s books have been banned throughout recent history. Alice in Wonderland was banned in the 1930s in China for showing animals being treated as equal to humans. Hansel and Gretel was banned by schools in California for teaching children it is acceptable to eat witches (what the?). Recently, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter have both been banned in certain libraries due to the ideas and language used.

Despite his books being burnt and banned, Erich Kastner’s works have survived, and Emil and the Detectives has become a children’s classic. Emil is said to be one of the first children detectives, and was an influence on Enid Blyton, inspiring her to create the likes of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. I am certainly going to read the sequel, Emil and the Three Twins, when it comes out as part of the children’s vintage classic range later in the year, even though it is not part of the 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up.

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4 comments

  1. Another book added to the growing list of must haves. Thankyou for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Emil and the Detectives, Erich Kästner translated by May Massee « Books, j'adore

  3. Pingback: On Abebook’s 50 books every 11-year-old should read « 1001 Children's Books

  4. Pingback: On where the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up (Too Much) comes from | 1001 Children's Books

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