Emily, an unloved orphan, finds a new family and occupation when she discovers her true calling.
Emily Vole might only be 9, but she has lived quite a life. After being abandoned in a hatbox, she is adopted by the Dashwoods, a hedge fund manager and his social-climber wife. After the Dashwoods have triplets of their own, they force Emily into servitude. When she is rescued from her Cinderella life by her neighbor, Miss String, and a man-sized talking cat named Fidget, Emily’s life changes: She discovers that she is the new Keeper of the Keys. References to fairy tales add depth to the story and make a clever backdrop to this series kickoff, in which a Circe-like witch turns people into animals and lures fairies to their doom in a magical lamp. Roberts’ detailed, humorous black-and-white illustrations are a big step up from the normal chapter-book fare; the train station where Emily is discovered is dramatically drawn with crosshatched lines and a beam of light highlighting the hatbox, while later illustrations show Emily, with her wide, sad eyes, in the full squalor of her life with the Dashwoods.
Now that Emily and her buddies have set up their new store and detective agency, readers looking for chapter books on the long side will look forward to more magical cases. (Fantasy. 7-12)