Friday, March 7, 2014

Never in Doubt

Sally Gardner

Like Roald Dahl, Sally Gardner writes of adult cruelty to children in such a way that the child's welfare is never in doubt in Operation Bunny: The First Case, illustrated by David Roberts, the launch title in the Wings & Co. series.

Emily Vole is a resourceful, smart child with survivor instincts, and there's no question of her innate goodness. She wants to escape from the laundry room of her adoptive household safely, and leave her neglectful adoptive parents, the Dashwoods, behind. Like Harry Potter, Emily discovers that she has a higher calling. She's the Keeper of the Keys, with the ability to restore the fairy world--if she can outwit Harpella, a witch with a vengeance for fairies.

Emily does not seek revenge on her cruel adoptive parents, but rather, acknowledging Mrs. Dashwood's blindness to her triplet daughters' evil ways and the woman's myopic efforts to restore them to their previous horrid personalities (after Harpella steals their souls), Emily incorporates Mrs. Dashwood's unique traits in her plot to overthrow the witch Harpella. Indeed the battle between the two women (each a witch in her own way) is one of the funniest scenes of the novel. Gardner cloaks her conflicts in humor, so they never feel that threatening, and David Roberts's comical drawings emphasize the Vaudevillian air.

The author taps into the secret desire many readers have to believe that magic exists in our everyday world, and her fairy characters offer credence to that desire. They are running the police department and solving mysteries, and residing with cats. Her book has the classic underpinnings of a fairy tale, but with original plot twists and large doses of humor. Best of all, Emily's ultimate triumph over evil is never in doubt.

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