14 Sep 2010 – from Emma, Beth and Grace

I’d been discussing this book with my friend Emma and her daughters when I saw them at the weekend. I didn’t have room in my bags to take their copy home with me, so we agreed they’d post it to me. I was thrilled when a brand new copy arrived via Amazon on Tuesday!  I promised to read it quickly and let them know what I thought about it, and it was no problem to promote it up the reading pile!

This is a fabulous book that I feel follows in the tradition of earlier children’s books like The Secret Garden or The Little Princess.  Indeed, this tale of an orphan girl shipped off to a new life on the other side of the world mentions Little Lord Fauntleroy, a nice touch for the adult and younger reader.

It’s fabulous in two ways – a very good read and full of excitement, colour, mystery and magic.  Maia is a lovely heroine and I adored her governess, Miss Minton, first met seeming very forbidding with a terrifying umbrella, but soon revealed to have a trunk full of books, and therefore to be on our side.  All the requisite elements are here, from absent-minded professors to distant guardians, a fantastic landscape and a realistically described city, and an interesting family to live with.  I particularly liked the way Miss Minton’s fate worked out, and the way Ibbotson worked in different parts to appeal to different groups of readers, from the knockabout experiences of a couple of lawyers, to the very odd obsessions of the Carters, to the interesting and beautiful dwellers in the jungle.

Any more than this would give the plot away, so I’ll just exhort people to get hold of a copy and read it! It’s won a Nestle Children’s Book Prize and been shortlisted for the Carnegie, and rightly so – a classic for the future.