cover image The Flying Classroom

The Flying Classroom

Erich K%C3%A4stner, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell, illus. by Walter Trier. Pushkin (PRH, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-78269-056-6

Originally published in 1935 and charmingly illustrated by Trier, K%C3%A4stner'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%E2%80%94cowardly Uli, ever-starving future boxer Matthias, gentle Martin, and writerly orphan Jonathan Trotz%E2%80%94come 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%E2%80%94along 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%E2%80%9312. (Mar.)