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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Operation Bunny: Wings & Co. Written by Sally Gardner and illustrated by David Roberts. Square Fish, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2012. $6.99 ages 8 and up

"Emily had no idea how she and Fidget had arrived in the heart of the countryside. The last thing she remembered was the Lost Property Office, and the next thing she knew, she was standing in the early morning sunshine at a disused railway station. "Come in, my little ducks," said Fidget, leaping down from the platform onto the grassy tracks. "Wait," said Emily. "Where's the pink rabbit?"
This is the first book in a new series from Sally Gardner, called Wings and Company. If it is any indication of what is to come, it promises to be great fun.

When Daisy Dashwood reads about the baby left in a hatbox in the Stansted Airport terminal, she makes a wish and her husband makes it come true ... 'easy peasy.'

"Five years later, Daisy Dashwood had to admit that Emily Vole wasn't exactly what she had in mind when she'd made her one and only wish. What she had really wanted was a baby girl with blue eyes and blond hair, ideally the same color as her own strawberry-blond extensions. The truth was that Emily's eyes were far too dark to be a true Dashwood offspring. But worse than the ebony eyes was Emily's hair. It was jet-black."

When the Dashwoods eventually get the news that they are expecting triplets of their own, they need no longer consider schooling Emily. They decide that they will educate her themselves as a nanny and a housekeeper. As luck would have it, their neighbor Miss String and her cat Fidget (who talks) are there to protect little Emily and teach her all they know about the world of magic!

Their magic is just the ticket for Emily. As well, she begins to see some of the good things in life: friendship, compassion, joy, and unconditional support. Miss String even teaches her to read and write:

"Within a year, Emily could read, write, do math, and speak fluent French and German. Plus another strange language that Miss String called Old English."

Miss String tells wonderful stories. None appeal to Emily more than the ones about a very strange shop called Wings & Co. It sells potions and helps solve mysteries. It is only when Miss String dies that Emily learns she has been left that shop, and made the new Keeper of the Keys. The adventure amps up when Harpella (an evil witch) makes her appearance, with plans to turn all citizens into bunnies. It's up to Emily to sabotage that plan.

Fairy tale references, humorous illustrations, clever language and a quick pace assure that this first instalment will have fans eagerly awaiting what is next for Emily and her detective agency. There is so much to enjoy about the storytelling:

  “Could we send her back to the orphanage?
I have the receipt for her somewhere,” Daisy asks.
“Not really, Smoochikins,” Ronald replies.
“It wasn’t a receipt — it was the adoption papers.”

"Exactly. Have you noticed how few fairies there
are in those stories?" asked Buster. "More often, there
are hard-done-by princesses dressed in rags and boring
princes being all soppy. The only time we fairies come
into the picture is when we are invited to christenings
and grant daft wishes."
Emily had to admit that Buster had a good point."

Please read it. You have a treat in store for you!

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