To begin with Emil leads a double life - he is both responsible for helping his mother who works hard to make ends meet after the death of Emil's father, but he is also rather wild - getting into fights and other mischief.
Having to travel on his own to visit relations in Berlin, and being entrusted to take a large sum of money for his grandmother, Emil takes his duty very seriously. However, this does not stop him from falling asleep on the train, only to find the money missing when he awakes! Then the real adventure begins as he stalks his chief suspect.... but he is not alone - soon he is joined by a gang of local children.
From here, the story has great pace - there is humour and charm in the gusto with which the children organise themselves and track their prey. Patience and ingenuity are required if they are to succeed...
The only strange part to the story is the dream Emil has when he falls asleep on the train - it is rather surreal, but perhaps something children can take in their stride. The only other question I had was regarding the translation - the book goes to a great deal of trouble to explain the sights Emil encounters on his journey, and when everything else in the landscape, including the names, are all German, the money is in pounds!
Published in Germany between the World Wars, it is easy to see how this book has been 'lost,' which is an enormous shame as it is simply wonderful! You could say, given hindsight, these children are a little too organised, but really I found nothing offensive here. In my opinion the story has aged well, just a pity it is not better known.
Pictures are great too!