Island of the Aunts
By Eva Ibbotson, published 2001
“She went on to explain that the worm was a person who liked to think about important things like ‘Where has yesterday gone?’ or ‘Why hasn’t God made sardines without bones?’ The trouble is he’s so long that his thoughts don’t easily get to the other end, and that upsets him.”
As a confirmed fan of Eva Ibbotson, I was so happy to find another quirky children’s book by her on the library shelves. In my mind, she is just a terrific contemporary children’s book writer. I was not disappointed with this one, and in fact, pleasantly surprised by the inclusion, among all the imaginative parts, a very strong environmental message. There’s nothing halfway about the message, and, as usual, there’s also nothing halfway about the imagination!
A word of advice when looking into this children’s book: this is British humor. It is 100% humor. So if your children don’t read it that way, or you don’t want them to read wacky stuff, this is not for you. Just glance at the hysteria in the Amazon reviews to see what I mean. For example, you have to get through the very opening lines with a sense of humor: “Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done…” If you don’t get right away that this is done in pure fun, this children’s book won’t work for you.
We live, alas, in a fear-based world, especially so around our children. I totally understand and respect that sense of protection. At the same time, sometimes, we have to just let it go and be silly. Praises to Ibbotson for doing so, and, for bringing such a stinging message about the natural destruction that humanity is wreaking on our oceans. Read the book, laugh and weep, both at the same time. It’s a rare writer that will bring both in a way suited to kids. I think it could be read-aloud with 8-year-olds, and independently from 9 up.