Old magic breaks loose in modern London to rescue a kidnapped prince in this droll, if formulaic, farce from Ibbotson. When wealthy Larina Trottle decides she wants a child, she snatches the first baby that comes along, leaving distraught royal parents on the other side of an ancient gate (Platform 13, in an old Tube station) that opens once every nine years. Nine years later, through the gate comes a rescue party: an invisible giant, a very old wizard, a fairy, and a young hag-in-training, Odge Gribble. But Raymond Trottle is a fat, selfish, greedy, stupid, thoroughly spoiled child. Reluctantly, with the help of the Trottles' thoroughly likable kitchen boy Ben, the rescuers set about their task, without reckoning just how difficult crafty Larina is going to make it. Ibbotson strews her tale with magic creatures and stock villains, including bodyguard/assassin ``Soft Parts'' Doreen, armed with deadly knitting needles, a terrible lake monster who gives a delicious new meaning to the term ``clear skin,'' and a band of harpies, horrible to behold in pearls, tight perms, and stretch tops. At the very last moment comes the revelation that Ben, not Raymond, is the true prince, and Odge engineers the happy reunion. With scrawled, comic black- and-white drawings by Porter, it's not exactly Roald Dahl, but Ibbotson is at least a distant cousin. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-525-45929-4

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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“Hear, and listen well, my friends, and I will tell you a tale that has been told for a thousand years and more.” It’s not exactly a rarely told tale, either, though this complete rendition is distinguished by both handsome packaging and a prose narrative that artfully mixes alliterative language reminiscent of the original, with currently topical references to, for instance, Grendel’s “endless terror raids,” and the “holocaust at Heorot.” Along with being printed on heavy stock and surrounded by braided borders, the text is paired to colorful scenes featuring a small human warrior squaring off with a succession of grimacing but not very frightening monsters in battles marked by but a few discreet splashes of blood. Morpurgo puts his finger on the story’s enduring appeal—“we still fear the evil that stalks out there in the darkness . . . ”—but offers a version unlikely to trouble the sleep of more sensitive readers or listeners. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-3206-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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