This is the fourth of Ibbotson’s books that I’ve read and once again one for children featuring both eccentric characters and fantastical creatures. But even though it is a fun adventure story, and probably more unusual than her others, at its heart (like her others) it essentially is a comment on human beings and the ills we unleash on the world around us, on our greed, selfishness—things that make so many of us rather despicable.
In this one, we have three sisters living on an island with their old father. They have been there for years and have been looking after various creatures—fish and animals who suffer because of oil spills and such; but these ‘ordinary’ beings are not the only ones they look after—there are also selkies, mermaids, and the boobrie bird. But these sisters, the aunts, Eta, Coral and Myrtle are now growing old and begin to worry about their charges. So they decide to do something very unnatural for them—kidnap some children who they’ll train to take over. And so Minette, Fabio, and unfortunately Lambert find themselves on the island. While the aunts have in their opinion ‘chosen’ children whose parents/guardians don’t seem to care particularly for them, there are consequences and attempts are made to look for them. Also, among the children, unlike Minette and Fabio who seem perfectly cut out for the purpose the aunts brought them for, Lambert a nasty, spoilt and wealthy boy is not and is determined to escape (while one can’t exactly fault him for it, his presence portends trouble). Meanwhile on the island, the children begin to learn about the unusual creatures and all that is involved in taking care of them, and soon enough become part of life there. An unusual event is also taking place bringing a lot joy to the island and its inhabitants (human and others), but sadly to spoil it, a greedy and dangerous man is heading to the island. And once he discovers all the usual beings who live there, he begins to covet them to fill his coffers some more.
This is a fun yet crazy tale of the aunts who are looking for the right people to take over their mantle but sadly choose the wrong way of getting them to the island. The aunts are quite good fun, though also very eccentric (we meet two others who don’t live on the island), and yet the only one of these sisters who chose the ‘normal’ path in life ends up coming across as the odd one. Minette and Fabio are very likeable too, and expectedly Lambert is horrid as are Boo-Boo and the Little One, children of Betty, the ‘normal’ sister. The adventure itself of how the children come to the island, and how Minnette and Fabio not only prove that they were indeed the right choices to look after their new animal and unusual friends, but also turn out to be the ones who help their new friends escape the clutches and nefarious schemes of the evil Mr Sprott. There are a few twists and surprises along the way which I thought added to the fun. And I also though the book did a good job of delivering its message on human failings and the terrible harm that were causing the world around us. Not only that, Ibbotson also manages to poke fun at many of our vanities and habits. May be not my favourite Ibbotson, but still good fun.
I read this one as part of my seasonal picks in October.
Have you read this one? Which are some of your favourite Ibbotson books? Looking forward to your thoughts!