Illustrated by David Roberts
Published by Orion Books in September 2012
192 pages, illustrated throughout
‘Daisy Dashwood and Ronald Dashwood had everything a young couple could dream of: a house in the suburbs, with box hedges shaped like squirrels, two cars in the drive with customised number plates – HER 1 and HIS 2, a tennis court, a small swimming pool, a gym. They even owned a villa near Malaga in Spain. But the one thing they didn’t have, the one thing neither money nor nature had been able to give them, was a baby.’
Summary from The Hive
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.
This book is a delight, ideally pitched at its 7+ audience and their families. I say ‘families’ because it would suit to being read aloud very well. Boys might well enjoy the mystery plot, and parents would appreciate the various levels of humour.
David Roberts’ quirky cover gives a good flavour of the book’s charms – and his inside illustrations add an extra layer of shadowy whimsy to the story. It won’t suit everyone – there is a Roald Dahl-like darkness in the treatment of the orphan Emily – but many will warm to the courageous little girl at the centre of the story.
Sally Gardner has carefully offset any sadder aspects with comedy. It is hard not to like Fidget, the upright talking cat with a wonderful line in expressions, and laugh at the multicoloured bunnies still spouting their last (human) words.
There is also plenty of magic, both good and bad. The witch, Harpella, is a monstrous creation –especially with the illustrations – but there are also some rather unexpected fairies, and little keys with legs.
The whole tale ends well for almost all concerned but there are few tiny mysteries left. It won’t come as an entire surprise that this is the first book of a series about Wings & Co. Fairy Detectives. I think a lot of readers will be eager to read ‘Three Pickled Herrings’ to find out what Emily, Fidget and Buster do next.