The Books of Eva Ibbotson

Guide by Connie C. Rockman

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Ghosts and hags, wizards and banshees, mermaids and mistmakersall are part of the magical worlds that Eva Ibbotson creates in her fantasy books for children. Even her more realistic stories are set in exotic places like the Amazon River in South America, where the natural world creates a mystical sense of wonder. Ibbotson introduces us to an array of fascinating characters and creatures: some from real life, some from folklore and mythology, and some completely original. What readers discover in her books is a love for the natural world in all its forms, plus fast-moving plots that emphasize the importance of showing kindness to others and never being quick to judge those who are different from ourselves. Humor plays an important role in her stories, for they are meant to be entertaining above all. Yet long after the last page is turned, the deeper meanings that emerge from these rollicking adventures linger in the reader's mind.


Miss Pringle and Mrs. Mannering run an agency that matches ghosts who need a home with people who want their dwellings haunted. And they do a very good job of it... until an error by their hapless office boy mixes up two assignments. This mistake is disconcerting to the nuns who requested a family of quiet ghosts for their old country abbey, but end up with the Shriekers, a couple who scream constantly and terrorize the livestock. But it's a very fortunate error for Oliver, a small boy whose scheming cousins hoped the Shriekers would frighten him to death so that they could take over his inheritance, a huge manor house. When the gentle Wilkinson family arrives at Helton Hall instead, they immediately befriend the boy, and he is delighted to have such kindly ghost company. They decide to help Oliver escape the clutches of his evil cousins, Fulton and Frieda Snodde-Brittle. But Fulton has more wicked plans of his own. Dial-a-Ghost is a fast-moving romp through a plot with more twists and turns than you can count, and a cast of characters who are loving and heartless, comfortable and cruel, charming and chilling, whether they are made of flesh or ectoplasm.

Island of the Aunts
Etta, Coral, and Myrtle tend to the needs of a number of remarkable creatures on the Island, a place forgotten by most peopleand they are very happy to keep it that way. But the three sisters are getting on in years and need help caring for their assortment of seals, fish, mermaids, birds, and other sea creatures. So they decide to kidnap some children to be their assistants. Each poses as a hired "aunt" from a London agency, and soon they return to the Island with their stolen charges. Minette and Fabio, confused at first, grow to love the Island and its many unusual creatures. They keep putting off their escape back to their troubled homes. But Lambert, the boy Myrtle kidnapped, is a pampered brat who refuses to believe that any of the Island's inhabitants actually exist. When Lambert uses his cell phone to call his father, the whole Island way of life is threatened by Mr. Sprott's scheme to turn the place into an amusement park. He doesn't reckon, however, on the powerand angerof the most magical creature of all, a larger-than-life spirit of the sea, the kraken.

Journey to the River Sea
Maia feels at home in the boarding school where she lives in London, in 1910. It is the only home she has known since her parents died two years earlier. When distant cousins are discovered 4,000 miles away, Maia must travel to the exotic Amazon River town of Manaus to live with them. She is accompanied on her journey by a governess, the imposing Miss Minton, who has her own secret reasons for accepting a post so far from home. They arrive in South America and soon discover that the Carters, Maia's cousins, are selfish and greedy people who isolate themselves from the wild beauty of the countryside around them. With the help of her clever governess, Maia finds moments of brief escape from their stifling home and makes friends with a strange Indian boy named Finn and a homesick child actor called Clovis. Soon she is swept up in the human intrigues and natural wonders of the world around her. As she helps her new friends to follow their dreams and desires, Maia learns what is most important to her and where her own future will lie.

The Secret of Platform 13
Hidden under Platform 13 in King's Cross Station is a gump, a secret entrance to another world. This doorway opens only for nine days every nine years. During those nine days, beings are free to come and go between our world and a magical Island, where fantastic creatures and humans live together sensibly and peacefully, shrouded from view by the hazy clouds created by lovable animals known as mistmakers. When the infant prince of the Island is kidnapped to our world by the unpleasant Mrs. Trottle, a strange band of rescuers is assembled nine years later to bring him back, and a fast-paced tale of magic, mayhem, and mistaken identity ensues. At first the rescuers are delighted to meet Ben, a sweet boy who could be the prince in spite of his lowly status in the Trottle house. But it soon becomes apparent that the real prince must be Raymond, the Trottles' rather obnoxious, spoiled son. Raymond, however, has no interest in leaving his pampered life for a mystical island. One of the rescuers, a young hag named Odge Gribble, is a tough, no-nonsense type who is determined on success. What she doesn't expect is that, in the end, she'll care much more about being a friend than a hero.

Which Witch?
Arriman is a very dark wizard, proud of his skills, but feeling bored and weary. Consulting a fortune-teller, he learns that a replacement wizard will arrive to relieve him of his duties, but he grows impatient waiting and decides that he must marry to produce an heir. The problem is finding a wife. The only wife for a wizard must be a witch, of course, but which witch? How to decide? The only way seems to be to hold a contest for the local witches. One glimpse of Arriman convinces Belladonna that she must win. But what chance does a white witch have of doing the dark magic worthy of a wizard's heart? Belladonna finds unlikely but effective allies in a foundling named Terence and his pet earthworm, Rover. Rover seems to be a powerful witch's familiar, an animal capable of inspiring very black magic. Belladonna might win. But then Madame Olympia, a skilled sorceress, arrives from London to compete, and the magical earthworm mysteriously disappears. Belladonna's chances become slim at best until events take a surprising turn, which even Madame Olympia could not have predicted.

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The Penguin Group is the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world. The company possesses perhaps the world's most prestigious list of best-selling authors and a backlist of unparalleled breadth, depth, and quality. Penguin Young Readers Group features books by authors and illustrators including Judy Blume, Brian Jacques, Eric Carle, and beloved characters like Winnie-the-Pooh, Madeline, The Little Engine that Could, and many, many more.

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