Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reissued Review: The Flying Classroom

Erich Kastner's The Flying Classroom, was originally published in German in 1933. Last year I read (and enjoyed) his classic, Emil and the Detectives. So I was curious to see if The Flying Classroom would have the same charm.

Premise: Six German boarding school boys get into mischief around Christmas-time.

Title: The Flying Classroom
Author: Erich Kastner (translated by Anthea Bell)
Length: 176 pages
Genre: Realistic fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 6-8
Format: Digital copy provided by Pushkin Children's Books

Three adjectives that describe this book: confusing, lacking, simple

Although The Flying Classroom had some memorable scenes, overall it was really disappointing. While this book will certainly appeal to an adult audience looking to relive older-styled stories, I doubt it will find much of an audience in the US in 2015.

But there are lots of problems with this book starting with the premise itself. Did you notice that premise at the top of the post? Very little happens in this book, and there is no over-arching problem. The story simply follows 6 boarding school boys over the course of a week or so. Young readers today want things to happen in their books.

Another major problem - even though not much happens, the story still manages to be confusing. I had to reread the first 40 pages THREE times because I couldn't keep the 6 main characters straight. They are called at various times by their full names, nicknames, last names, etc... such that the 6 boys feel more like 15. It was very hard to keep track.

And there are two more things - the characters all smoke (even fellow students), and one of the boys is on scholarship and his peers are constantly "amazed" by how smart he is even though he's poor. I found it very offensive.

The one redeeming quality is that the illustrator, Walter Trier, is marvelous. He keeps the book light and helps clarify some of the confusing scenes.

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