I’ve been a huge fan of Sally Gardner ever since I first read I, Coriander. Sally is one of those brilliant authors whose stories are always original and you never know quite what to expect when you start reading them. She’s also incredibly versatile, as she writes for all ages, from preschoolers, to middle grade, and right up to teens and beyond. Her latest book, Operation Bunny, is the first in a new series for younger readers, called Wings & Co.
Emily Vole makes headline news in the first weeks of her life, when she is found in an abandoned hatbox in Stansted Airport. Then, only a few years later, her neighbour Mrs String dies leaving Emily a mysterious inheritance: an old shop, a small bunch of golden keys and a cat called Fidget. It’s the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime as the old Fairy Detective Agency comes back to life. It is up to Emily to reopen the shop, and recall the fairies to duty. Together they must embark on their first mystery and do battle with their great fairy-snatching enemy, Harpella.
Operation Bunny is a magical story, filled with a cast of wonderful characters, plenty of mystery, and a sprinkling of humour. It’s the sort of book that you sit down to read a few chapters and end up gobbling up the whole book because you’re enchanted by Sally’s storytelling and David Roberts hilarious illustrations.
I fell in love with the characters straight away and I wanted to be friends with Miss String and Fidget the talking cat. Emily is a Cinderella-type character because she gets locked away and made to do all the housework for her horrible adopted parents. Not only are they horrible, they’re also quite stupid. Emily’s adopted mother lets a strange lady into their house who turns her triplets into zombies, and Emily’s adopted father is a slimy wee man who’s hiding a secret and always calls his wife ‘Smoochikins.’ However, Emily is much smarter and braver than these horrible people give her credit for, and with the help of her rather unusual neighbours she escapes and starts her new life as a detective. Fidget is my favourite character because he is always happy to help and he has the best lines (which usually involve fish of some sort), like ‘Search my sardine tin, I don’t know,’ and ‘Twiddle my whiskers and call me tuna.’ I love the way that Fidget calls Emily ‘my little ducks’ too. Even though she doesn’t have parents that love her, she has a giant talking cat that is looking out for her always. There are lots of other interesting characters in the story, including a mischievous bunch of keys, zombie babies, a fairy policeman, a shop with legs, a magic lamp that talks, and lots and lots of bunnies.
David Roberts illustrations are wonderful as always and help set the tone of the story. They’re both hilarious and a little dark, and they bring Sally’s characters alive. I especially like the personalities that David has given each of the rabbits and the suave, charming look that he’s given Fidget.
Operation Bunny is perfect for reading aloud (to 7 years and up) or find yourself a comfy spot and disappear into this magical story. I’m so pleased that we have more adventures with Emily, Fidget and the Fairy Detective Agency, Wings & Co. to look forward to. I can’t wait to read the next book, The Three Pickled Herrings (coming in February 2013).
5 out of 5 stars