Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Originally published in 1935 and charmingly illustrated by Trier, Kästner's (Emil and the Detectives) pleasingly sentimental tale of early 20th-century boarding-school life gets the opportunity to reach a new audience, courtesy of Bell's new translation. A varied group of boys—cowardly Uli, ever-starving future boxer Matthias, gentle Martin, and writerly orphan Jonathan Trotz—come together in the final days before Christmas break to present a play, "The Flying Classroom," to their schoolmates. The heart of the novel centers on the boys' intricate layers of friendship and deep admiration for their housemaster. During a string of vignettes infused with sweet nostalgia, secrets are discovered, books are burned, bones are broken, and Christmas is almost spoiled. Still, the story shows its age, at times—along with somewhat old-fashioned language ("Now then, off you go, you bandits!"), fighting, bullying, and tobacco use are present. While the narrative frame and ensemble cast might prove a challenge to less mature readers, the rewards of meaningful and lasting emotion, portrayed throughout, is worth the effort. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)