Erich Kästner: His 10 most beautiful books for childre

The ten most beautiful children's books by Erich Kästner

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The flying classroom

This children's book is Erich Kästner's favourite among his own children's books - perhaps because he chose a setting from his youth: The story is set in a boarding school just before Christmas. The title of the novel is also the title of the play that the pupils rehearse for the Christmas party.

The main characters are five boys from the Tertia of the grammar school (today that would be the eighth or ninth grade). Martin, Jonathan, Matthias, Uli and Sebastian are schoolmates and friends. When they learn that one of their comrades has been kidnapped by the junior high school students, they want to free him.

If the feud with the secondary modern school students is the main focus, the book unfolds its strengths along the way: The young readers learn that everyone has his problems and has to find his way. Sadness is just as normal as joy - life is diverse and multifaceted, different feelings are not contradictory. Without pathos, Kästner makes it clear that friendship, loyalty and generosity are the values with which problems can be overcome.

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Pünktchen and Anton

Pünktchen is actually called Luise and is what you can call a "poor rich little girl": Her parents are wealthy, but have no time for her. Her nanny secretly takes her begging in the evening. The money is intended for her unpleasant fiancé.

When begging, the amused dot makes the acquaintance of Anton: He too begs, but not for fun. His mother is suffering, and Anton has to somehow raise the rent for the small apartment and for food. This also affects his school performance. The girl supports her boyfriend wherever she can - and his presence of mind prevents a catastrophe.

Erich Kästner easily overcomes the class differences with the friendship of the two children. He shows that courage, a good heart and ingenuity make up for a lack of physical strength. Between the chapters there are reflections that take up ethical questions of the history up to now. Children are welcome to skip them, the author explains.   

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The double Lottchen

At a youth holiday camp, Luise and Lotte are shocked when they see each other for the first time: Except for their hairstyle, they look identical. In long conversations they find out that they are twins. Their parents have separated and have each kept one child. Without asking them! Outraged, the girls decide to slip into each other's roles after the holidays.

It is not easy to find one's way around in a strange environment and with a strange parent. And then another threat appears: Could it be that the father has given away his heart again? Letters fly back and forth, in which Luise and Lotte give each other support.

It is the leap into the unknown that makes "Das doppelte Lottchen" so breathtakingly exciting. The children, driven by the urge for the truth, dare to take the step into a completely different reality. Thanks to their respective character traits and the unconditional mutual support, they bring their story to a happy ending. A classic by Erich Kästner and an absolute children's book MUST.

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Emil and the detectives

Emil Tischbein is excited and proud when he is allowed to travel from his home town Neustadt to the big city of Berlin for the first time to visit relatives. His mother gives him money for his grandmother and some pocket money, 140 marks in total. Although Emil fastens them with a pin in his skirt pocket, they are stolen from him by a fellow traveller.

Emil knows who the thief is and follows him when he gets off the train in Berlin. He makes the acquaintance of Gustavs, a boy of about the same age. He helps him and gathers a whole bunch of his friends as detectives. The boys shadow the thief and finally manage, in exemplary teamwork, to have him arrested. Since he is a wanted bank robber, Emil gets a reward of 1,000 Marks.

An exciting detective novel, but also a good example of the saying "Together we are strong" - that's how this book can be described. The self-proclaimed detectives interlock like cogs and work very well together - even if there is a need for clarification in the meantime. Helpfulness, courage and resourcefulness overcome all problems.

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Emil and the three twins

Emil spends his summer holidays in the summer house of one of his Berlin friends at the Baltic Sea. Several of the detectives are also invited. The group makes the acquaintance of a trio of artists who perform as "The three Byrons". They make friends with the boy Jackie - only to find out that the head of the group wants to get rid of him: the boy is getting too heavy for the exercises.

Outraged, the friends make plans to thwart Byron's evil intentions. However, they have to realize that this time many things are different than they seem. But thanks to their flexibility and ingenuity, they still make sure that Jackie's future looks bright.

In this children's book it becomes apparent that the world is sometimes more appearance than reality. Nevertheless, certain rules remain steadfastly in place: Cohesion, friendship, imagination and a pinch of courage always pay off. This also applies to a very personal decision that Emil and his mother have to make.

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The 35th of May

Konrad is good at mathematics. All those who are good at mathematics suffer from unimaginativeness, says his teacher. That's why they should write an essay about the South Seas. Konrad is struggling with the subject - how is he supposed to write about something he doesn't know? Fortunately, however, on this 35th May he visits his uncle, the pharmacist Ringelhuth.

Together with the circus horse Negro Kaballo, Konrad and his uncle set off for the South Seas through the floorboard cabinet. On the way they pass the land of milk and honey, the castle to the great past, the upside-down world and Elektropolis. They cross the equator and get to know some of the inhabitants in the South Seas. The circus horse falls in love and stays when Konrad and the uncle leave again. Konrad now has more than enough material for the essay.

This children's book by Erich Kästner is clearly more anarchic than his other novels: they are firmly rooted in reality (untypical for the children's book genre at the time). The story of Konrad's Journey, on the other hand, is a cornucopia of fantasy, touches on science fiction and yet, with a wink, points out here and there where the world could be a bit better.

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The Conference of the Animals

In this children's book, people met at the 86th conference to discuss the problems that they themselves have caused. When the animals read in the newspaper that the conference ended without a result, they were horrified. It looks like they have to take matters into their own hands, hooves and claws. So they call the Animals' Conference.

They are also asking one human being from each continent to attend. The children, they say, cannot help the problems of adults. When the people do not respond to the first demands of the animals, they resort to other means: They kidnap all the children and take good care of them. Finally, the people realize that they have to give in.

Erich Kästner's fable contains much of his own worldview: the animals demand disarmament, a science that serves peace and as little bureaucracy as possible. It is also easy for children to understand how people get bogged down with unnecessary questions and how the animals have to force them back on the right track.

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The pig at the barbershop

Little Berthold does not like going to the hairdresser at all until his mother makes an appointment for him at the "Friseur am Zoo". Here the children sit on live animals instead of chairs! And for Berthold the pig is free at the moment.

Erich Kästner has compiled 16 different stories and poems for children for this book. Some of them are funny, some are thought-provoking - and most of them do both. Unlike the novels, the stories are rather short and trenchant, but for this very reason they are ideal for reading aloud to younger people.

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The Little Man

Mäxchen Pichelstein is quite small, even for his home village: everyone here grows to a maximum height of 51 centimetres, but Mäxchen is so small that he can sleep in a matchbox. Together with the magician Jokus he performs in the circus and is so successful that the whole world flocks to see him.

In the middle of the peak of fame, Mäxchen is kidnapped on behalf of a multimillionaire. His friends are desperate. But the little man knows how to help himself after he has managed to sound out his kidnappers.

"The Little Man" is aimed at a younger audience than "The Flying Classroom" or "Emil and the Detectives". It is a story about the little man who can become great through courage, ingenuity and skill. Friendship and helpfulness are also highlighted again in this novel by Erich Kästner.

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Little Man and Little Miss

The little man is actually quite content, but often a little lonely. Although Jokus and Rosa Marzipan are a great family for him, he doesn't know anybody his size. At least the shooting distracts him a bit: His life is being filmed.

After the first broadcast there is a big surprise: An emigrated Pichelsteiner from Alaska. Her daughter Emily is just as tall as Mäxchen. The little man is overjoyed because he has finally found the right companion.

Like the first part of the adventures of Mäxchen Pichelstein, the second part is also suitable for smaller children. It is a story of the possibilities that unconditional friendship and real cohesion open up.