I was in a used bookstore recently and stumbled across a couple of books by Eva Ibbotson. I recalled reading and enjoying her book The Secret of Platform 13 when I was younger, and decided to give a few of her other books a try.
When the kindly old aunts decide that they need help caring for creatures who live on their hidden island, they know that adults can’t be trusted. What they need are a few special children who can keep a secret-a secret as big as a magical island. And what better way to get children who can keep really big secrets, than to kidnap them! (After all, some children just plain need to be kidnapped.) Don’t miss this wildly inventive and funny read from master storyteller Eva Ibbotson.
The book begins “Kidnapping children is not a good idea. But all the same sometimes it has to be done.” Right off the bat, you get a sense of the very quirky humor and writing style used by Ibbotson. A lot of reviews I read said they were put off by the kidnapping aspect of the book. Everyone and everything in the book is caricatured and a little larger than life, in addition to the book being fantasy (there are mermaids and selkies). Obviously in real life kidnapping is terrible, and one could write a tragic book about the horror a child goes through when it occurs. That is not this book. I think you either are willing to suspend your disbelief about the kidnapping aspect and accept it as part of the fantasy or you aren’t, and I recommend you do because this is a hilarious novel. Island of the Aunts feels like it could have been written anytime during the past century, and I was surprised to discover it was actually written in the late 90s, because it feels so timeless.
For me, the humor was on point, and I loved the idea of a island sanctuary for magical creatures. The environmental aspects of the book were obvious, but well done. The antics of the parents of the kidnapped children are terrible and yet incredibly entertaining. As are many other random moments – such as one parent stumbling across a nudist island while searching for his son. The climax and ending of the book follow the same absurd humor of the rest of the book and I loved it.
If you enjoyed the Penderwicks, I’d give this a read. It’s got the same timeless, childhood story feel, but with a touch of magic.
Stay magical readers!