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Emil and Karl

by Yankev Glatshteyn
Translated by Jeffrey Shandler, from the Yiddish

Published by A Neal Porter Book/ Roaring Book Press, 2006
194 pages
ISBN: 1-59643-119-9

Ages 10-14

Yankev Glatshteyn’s novel about the persecution of Jews and others in Europe just before the start of World War II is remarkable for several reasons. Set in Vienna, the story follows Emil, who is Jewish, and Karl, who is not, as the best friends wander in search of safety after each is orphaned. Both boys lost their parents after the Nazi’s begin persecuting Jews and communists more aggressively. The taut narrative follows the two boys who move through the world as if shell-shocked as they slowly adapt to a life of uncertainty, buffeted by circumstance from one place to another. They rely wholly on one another, deepening an already committed friendship. Glatshteyn’s novel was first published in Yiddish in 1940. He was writing at a time when no one could possibly imagine what the outcome of the Nazi persecution would mean for the Jews of Europe, and yet Emil and Karl seems chillingly prescient. Significant references to trains, for example, including the one that Emil and Karl are waiting to board at the end of the story, bring to mind the many transports that took Jews and others to their death in the years following the time in which this affecting story was written and takes place. This is the first time Emil and Karl has been published in English.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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