Emil and Karl

Emil and Karl

4.5 2
by Yankev Glatshteyn

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This is a unique work. It is one of the first books written for young readers describing the early days of the event that has since come to be known as the Holocaust. Originally written in Yiddish in 1938, it is one of the most accomplished works of children's literature in this language. It is also the only book for young readers by Glatshteyn, a major American

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This is a unique work. It is one of the first books written for young readers describing the early days of the event that has since come to be known as the Holocaust. Originally written in Yiddish in 1938, it is one of the most accomplished works of children's literature in this language. It is also the only book for young readers by Glatshteyn, a major American Yiddish poet, novelist, and essayist.

Written in the form of a suspense novel, Emil and Karl draws readers into the dilemmas faced by two young boys--one Jewish, the other not--when they suddenly find themselves without families or homes in Vienna on the eve of World War II. Because the book was written before World War II, and before the full revelations of the Third Reich's persecution of Jews and other civilians, it offers a fascinating look at life during this period and the moral challenges people faced under Nazism. It is also a taut, gripping, page-turner of the first order.

Editorial Reviews

Starred Review Booklist

It's a clear, powerful novel that will bring today's readers very close to what it was like to be a child under Nazi occupation. . . . The fast-moving prose is stark and immediate. . . . The translation, sixty-five years after the novel's original publication, is nothing short of haunting.
The New York Times

Like 'The Diary of Anne Frank,' Emil and Karl will stir adults, as well as the book's intended audience.
author of How I Live Now Meg Rosoff

Emil and Karl defies categorization. For a moment I feel as if I am in Vienna in 1940, that I am standing beside the author, watching the impossible unfold. I share his disbelief, his mute acceptance of a world turned upside down. The experience is more immediate than mere fiction, more memorable and more frightening.
Publishers Weekly
Written in 1940, this novel set shortly after the Nazi invasion of Austria contains disturbing images of cruel persecution while conveying a powerful message about survival and loyalty. The story unfolds through the alternating points of view of two nine-year-old boys, Emil and Karl, whose friendship strengthens in the midst of adversity. After Emil's Jewish father is executed and Karl's socialist mother is arrested, the boys find themselves thrust into the streets of Vienna. They witness (and at times are victim to) tyranny carried out by soldiers and citizens. In one heartwrenching scene, Jews are forced to scrub a public square with their bare hands; in another, they are corralled in a park to be ridiculed by onlookers. Throughout the novel, the author conjures an aura of chaos, violence and fear. Yet he also pays tribute to the courageous individuals who stand up in the face of injustice and take enormous risks to protect defenseless children such as Emil and Karl as the Nazis began to gain in power, and when the scope of their plan is still largely rumored. Remaining steadfast to their beliefs and to each other until the day they are forced to part, the boys emerge as true heroes who refuse to be beaten down by a dangerous regime. Ages 9-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
What was Europe like at the brink of World War II for children? One of the most interesting aspects of this book is its historical perspective: This story, written before World War II, was published originally in Yiddish to educate Jewish children in America about what their counterparts in Europe, specifically Vienna, were experiencing. That twist adds weight and value to this newest addition to the body of young adult Holocaust literature. Karl, a nine-year-old boy, sits on the floor of his apartment in shock, having just watched uniformed men break in to take away his screaming Socialist mother. He leaves his apartment in search of his best friend, a Jewish boy named Emil. Emil's father has just been seized leaving his mother in a state of profound shock. When a rabbi comes to take her to a hospital, the boys are left on their own. Passed from one well-meaning person to another, the boys finally escape Vienna with their lives but nothing else, separated even from each other at the last minute. Although the protagonists are nine-year-old boys, this story is one to enhance any library collection or classroom unit on the Holocaust. The innocent and simple tone of the two young boys' story augments the setting of unanticipated violence in pre-war Austria. The inexplicably horrid actions of the Aryan people of Vienna toward their Jewish neighbors and the unique historical perspective of this newly translated tale make it a valuable addition to Holocaust literature. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006(orig. 1940), Roaring Brook, 208p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Mary Ann Darby
Children's Literature
While many children's books have been written about the Holocaust, "Emil and Karl" is one of the first. Published in Yiddish in 1940, it was given to Jewish children in America to give them a picture of the events in Europe. Now, for the first time, it is available in English. Two children, Emil and Karl, find themselves on the run from the Nazis in Vienna. Emil is Jewish and Karl's mother is a socialist. After they are separated from their families, the two boys try to evade the Nazi soldiers. Through it all, their friendship remains the only thing they can count on. Even though it was published almost seventy years ago, this book has aged remarkably well. Emil and Karl are just as engaging as they were when they made their first appearance. Children today will be just as frightened and saddened for the two boys as they were when it was first published. A valuable addition to the abundant trove of Holocaust literature. 2006, Roaring Book Press, Ages 9 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
Kirkus Reviews
Glatshteyn presents an unstintingly stark depiction of Nazi terror in this story, set in Vienna shortly after the German occupation. Originally published in Yiddish in 1940, Glatshteyn's work tells of Christian Karl and Jewish Emil, inseparable friends, who have only each other after their mothers are carted off by the authorities. How they survive on their own, sometimes with the aid of partisans, often despite casual or intentional cruelties, makes for a wrenching account laced with humiliation, horror, fear, paranoia and incredible courage. Written in spare and readable, though choppy and not always realistic, prose, and filled with some surreal imagery that emerges from the boys' viewpoints, the tale will engage young readers in the friends' plight and their race against time and circumstance. In a poignant conclusion, Emil and Karl are separated while attempting to board the Kindertransport trains to safety. The translator's afterword explains that this is one of the first novels written about the Holocaust in any language and for any age. (Fiction. 10+)

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Product Details

Square Fish
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Product dimensions:
5.44(w) x 8.17(h) x 0.56(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 14 Years

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Emil and Karl 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rated this book a 4 because once you read it you'll love the beginning but towards the end it just gets boring. The days go by almost the same and nothing thrilling or exciting happens. But it is a very good story if you enjoy books about World War II. Not so much about the Holocaust though but you should ptobably get a used one because you won't read it more then once. Other than that its a very sad but important tale of two boys in Germany during the Nazi invasions