Hi everyone! Hope you’re having a great week. We are prepping for a rainy weekend in Dallas.
Today I’m here with a review of a childhood favorite of mine, The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. I remember loving this book as a kid. I decided it to reread it as a part of my reading goal to reread 5 books this year. And I thought it was as darling as ever.
- I reread the same copy that I had when I was growing up. It’s a little worn, pretty frayed around the edges, and I love it.
- This novel was one of the first fantasy novels I ever read. It’s not long (just over 200 pages) and has some darling pictures of different scenes in the story. This is an easy read, great for the young audience that it is geared towards.
- Definitely a book I will be reading aloud to my children one day!
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson is a fantasy story about a magical island and an adventure to save their prince. Goodreads summarizes, “A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom–an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs. Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it’s up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed?”
This is a quintessential children’s fantasy novel. It has all the elements that I look for in a cute kids book–a action paced plot, likable characters, fun pictures, and a happy ending. With the right expectations, I think anyone can enjoy this book. You can’t expect too much from it. You have to be in the right frame of mind. This novel isn’t complicated. It isn’t deep or makes any deep philosophical arguments. But it is positive. It is happy and fun and sweet. It’s a feel good book that has a special place in my bookish heart as a childhood favorite.
The story is easy to get into and fun to read. I love the simplicity of the plot and the fun fantasy elements in the characters and their interactions. I laughed at the antics of Raymond and his mother. I smiled at Odge and her friendship with Ben. I hoped the rescuers would convince the prince to return. And I loved the descriptions of London life. It’s pretty easy to figure out where the story is going but that wasn’t a surprise for a children’s novel. I hoped for a happy ending for all the characters and that’s just what we get from this story.
The characters are mostly flat and simple, but that works for me. Again, it’s all about the proper perspective. If you are expecting a simple book written for kids, then the characters work. Ben is so easy to love and root for. Raymond was so ridiculous I had to laugh at him over and over. And I love the quirks of each of the rescuers sent to bring back the prince from Odge’s stubborn insistence on coming along to Hans’ humility and invisibility to Cor’s wisdom and loyalty to Gerkie and her ability to make anything grow anywhere. Plus we have an array of magical creatures living all around London. These characters are simple and fun.
I credit this book with my initial love of the fantasy genre. As I mentioned above, this was one of the first fantasy books I read as a kid. Because of Ibbotson, I developed a love of fantasy stories which led me to Narnia, Hogwarts, Middle Earth, and many other magical places. I actually found myself comparing this book to Harry Potter on this reread. Between the London setting, the ghosts, the magic spells, magical creatures of all sorts, and gateway to a magical world inside a train station, I saw a lot of fun similarities.
This book is simple enough that writing an extended review is somewhat difficult. This isn’t a novel that offers readers a lot of complex themes or really keeps you thinking about it for weeks afterwards. But it’s sweet and endearing and good. And sometimes, you just need a simple, good book to enjoy.
What are some of your childhood favorites?