REVIEW: Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson

REVIEW: Island of the Aunts by Eva IbbotsonIsland of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson
Published: Puffin Books (1999), Paperback, 304pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

When the kindly old aunts decide that they need help caring for creatures who live on their hidden island, they know that adults can't be trusted. What they need are a few special children who can keep a secret-a secret as big as a magical island. And what better way to get children who can keep really big secrets, than to kidnap them! (After all, some children just plain need to be kidnapped.) Don't miss this wildly inventive and funny read from master storyteller Eva Ibbotson. (from Goodreads)

On the Eva Ibbotson scale of cuteness, this is somewhere between Which Witch? and Journey to the River Sea. There are some really horrible adults, but there are also some really lovely ones. The kids go on a journey of self-discovery, but it’s mostly the kind that tells you that you CAN do useful things and you’re a good person, etc. And while most of the story is focused on the kids and their time on the island, a good chunk of it is spent on an adorable sea creature who has feelings and whatever. It’s cute! It’s mostly fluffy! And there’s some great “lessons” woven throughout (if you care about that sort of thing).

The aunts are some of my favorite Ibbotson characters EVER: I love how they’re not all sweetness and light, and how they’re really weird but also still kind and lovable. (I also thought it was hilarious that they never shaved their legs– like Samson, they believe there’s power in the length of their hair.) They’re excellent role models, really, because they don’t let their weirdness stop them from doing anything. They know what they want and they go out and get it– even if it is some kidnapped children.

Island of the Aunts is different from a lot of kids fantasy books; it’s got the same sort of “you are chosen” motif that runs through a lot of books, but it ALSO has got real world consequences for spiriting off children in order to train them in the art of caring for mythological creatures. It’s still got a happy (and unrealistic) ending, of course, but I liked the nod to real life anyway.

My very favorite thing, however, is the sarcastic humor that runs throughout. It’s very slight, and if I were a kid I don’t think I’d have noticed, but as an adult I love it to bits. It’s like Eva Ibbotson is poking ever-so-slightly at the silly things adults do/have done to the world/etc. (Although she’s tougher when it comes to environmental damage. Nothing “slight” about that aspect of the sarcasm.)

I’d definitely recommend Island of the Aunts for fans of Eva Ibbotson and for those who WANT to be fans. It’s short but sweet, and there’s some really good stuff in it about responsibility and families and so on.

Read: May 10-11, 2013

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson”

  1. I make a heart with my fingers for this book. I haven’t read it in years which seems weird and wrong! I do truly prefer the Eva Ibbotson books that are set in times and places where she herself also lived (like pre-WWII Austria), and sometimes I forget that her fantasy books are really sweet and dear also.

    1. Recommendations for me, please? Which non-fantasy books of her’s should I read? (I liked The Star of Kazan but I can’t remember anything about it now except for the horses.)

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