‘Dot & Anton’ by Erich Kästner (Review)

IMG_5186I’m a busy bunny at the moment, what with a new course having just begun at work (and the small matter of my IFFP reviewing, of course…), so it’s good that I have an assistant to help with some of my reviewing, even if I end up doing the bulk of the admin…

Without further ado, then, here’s Emily with another of her choices (a review copy sent by Pushkin Children’s Books), a classic of children’s literature available for Anglophone children to read for the first time 🙂

*****
What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called Dot & Anton and it’s by Erich Kästner (and it’s translated by Anthea Bell).

What’s it about?
It’s about a girl called Dot and a boy called Anton.  Dot’s family is very rich while Anton’s family could live two weeks on the price of the opera tickets that Dot’s parents bought.  Along with Dot’s governess, Dot and Anton sell matches and shoelaces on the bridge, so the governess can make enough money for her fiancé to take over Dot’s apartment!

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
I really liked it!  It was funny and a really good book.  The story was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.

What was your favourite part?
My favourite bit was when the maid, fat Berta, was dancing the tango with the policeman because it was really funny 🙂

I also liked the afterthoughts after each chapter.  One of them said:

“As I was writing that, I suddenly realized that this afterthought really ought to be read by grown-ups.  So next time there’s trouble at home, open the book at this page and give it to your parents to read, will you?  That never does anyone any harm.”
p.89 (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2015)

I think that was very funny 🙂  The introduction was good too.  It was named ‘This Introduction is as Short as Possible’ when it was really, really long!

Was it difficult to read?
Some bits were difficult, but I think I understood it all.

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
I think it would be a good book for boys and girls because it has two main characters, a boy and a girl, so it doesn’t really mean it has to be a boy book or a girl book because there are no boy and girl books.  It’s also very, very funny, and in the end everything is happy 🙂

Emily, thank you very much.

*****
Emily seems to be a star in her own right now – the parcel that came to our house was addressed to her, not me, and contained a lovely personal note from our contact person at Pushkin (which pleased the little miss no end!).  The most interesting part of it all, though, was what Emily said when she saw the book:

“As soon as I opened the package, I knew it was going to be a good book because the cover was like the other ones.”

Which is something I’m sure Pushkin will be very happy to hear 🙂

This actually touches on something I was discussing on Twitter a while back about book branding (a discussion in which Pushkin was heavily prominent).  Pushkin have always had a strong brand, in terms of both the kind of book they publish and the look of those books, and we were wondering whether that was holding up with the greater range and variety of titles offered since the change of ownership.

That’s a question for another time, but what Emily said here was very interesting.  She was referring to the other Kästner books she’d read, and Annie M.G. Schmidt’s novel The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, all of which had the same style of cover (from the same designer).  Very quickly, Emily has recognised it as a brand, a guarantee of quality reading (for her, at least), and I’m sure she’s very keen to see more of these chapter books, aimed at the same kind of reader.  I know that these books have taken pride of place on her own personal bookshelves 🙂

Once again, Kästner’s delightful story has been translated by Anthea Bell (another guarantee of quality) and accompanied by Walter Trier’s classic illustrations.  I’ve only flicked through it, but the style is similar to the other two we’ve seen, particularly in the light-hearted tone and the way in which the writer frequently breaches the fourth wall (as Emily mentioned above).  It’s a style that draws you in, right from the first page:

‘What was I going to say just now?  Oh yes, I remember.  The story that I’m about to tell you this time is extremely odd.  It is odd because first, well, it just is odd, and second it really happened.  It was in the newspaper about six months ago.  Aha, you’re thinking as you whistle through your teeth, Kästner’s stolen someone else’s story!
     But he hasn’t.” (p.7)

It’s a start that’s guaranteed to have you wanting to know more 🙂

Hopefully, Emily and I have whetted your (or your children’s) appetite for this one.  Thanks again to Pushkin for making this available – let’s just hope that there are more of the same on the horizon soon.

And don’t forget what we said about the covers!

2 thoughts on “‘Dot & Anton’ by Erich Kästner (Review)

  1. I see Emily is going to be as astute a reviewer as her Dad some day…
    My older son really likes Erich Kastner as well, while the younger one refuses to read Emil and the Detectives because he’s already seen the stage play in London… (should never have bought those tickes).
    And I agree with what you say about book branding.

    Like

    1. Marina Sofia – I’d love for Pushkin to bring out ‘Emil and the Detectives’, but I suspect that there are too many editions on the market already. You never know, though – perhaps one day they’ll do it just to have it on their books 😉

      As for Emily, next week will see a slightly less positive review for once!

      Like

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