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Book Title: The Flying Classroom|
The author of the book: Erich Kästner
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 984 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.5
Edition: Red Fox
Date of issue: December 21st 1994
ISBN 13: 9780099290315
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There were two episodes in this German children's classic that really stayed with me. The first occurs early in the book. The narrator tells you about a little boy called Johnny, who was born in New York. His father is German and his mother is American, and they really don't get on. Mom leaves. And when Johnny is four, his father puts him on a boat to Hamburg, with a label round his neck on which he's written Johnny's name. He tells the Captain that Johnny's grandparents will meet him at the other end. Everyone on board is very nice to the kid, especially the Captain, and when they get to Hamburg he makes a point of taking Johnny down to the arrivals hall to be sure he finds his grandparents. But they never turn up - not surprisingly, says the narrator, because they had been dead for several years. Johnny's father just wanted to get rid of him. The Captain, who's a kind and honorable man, adopts Johnny and arranges for him to attend the boarding school where most of the action takes place. But even though Johnny is brave and determined and does everything he can to look at life from the positive side, he never fully recovers from the awful thing that was done to him when he was just four years old.
The second episode takes place around the middle of the book. There's another boy at the school, called Uli. He's the smallest kid in the class and some of the nastier kids like to pick on him. One day, the teacher arrives and he finds that the bullies have put Uli in a trashcan and suspended it from the ceiling so that he can't get down. The teacher asks Uli's best friend, Matthias, why he didn't stop them. Matthias is really big and strong and usually looks after Uli.
"I couldn't," says Matthias, "there were too many of them."
"Well," says the teacher, "there's a sentence I'm going to ask all of you to write out five times." And he gives them the sentence, which in German is An allem Unfug, der passiert, sind nicht etwa nur die schuld, die ihn tun, sondern auch die, die ihn nicht verhindern; I would render this in English as "When bad things happen, it's not just the fault of the people who do them, but also the fault of the people who don't do anything to stop them." Then he tells them to get Uli down safely, and the whole class write out the sentence five times.
I've now read three of Erich Kästner's books, and it's clear that he had a very strong sense of right and wrong. He published this one early in 1933. A few months later, he was forced to watch while the Nazis publicly burned most of his works; unfortunately, not enough people tried to stop them. But after the war his books quickly returned, and I understand that German children are still growing up reading them.
When we were in Berlin last week, we visited the place where Kästner's books were burned. Thank you Matt for pointing out that it was directly opposite Humboldt-Universität.
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Read information about the authorErich Kästner (1899 – 1974) was a German author, poet, screenwriter and satirist, known for his humorous, socially astute poetry and children's literature.
A stout pacifist and democrat, he was expelled from the national writers' guild during the Nazi era, with many of his books being burned in public. Today, he is widely regarded as one of Germany's most prolific and beloved children's book authors.
Έριχ Καίστνερ (Greek)
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