The magical world of Eva Ibbotson: a guide to her books for children and young adults
Eva Ibbotson wrote many magical stories that are beloved by readers of all ages, from the award-winning Journey to the River Sea to the romance of The Secret Countess. Here’s a guide to Eva Ibbotson’s books for those who already know and love her work, and those who are looking to discover their next enthralling read.
With their warmth and humour, magical characters and heaps of adventure, Eva Ibbotson’s books are loved by children, and adults, of all ages. With 2019 marking the 25th anniversary of the publication of her much-loved middle-grade story, The Secret of Platform 13, now is the perfect time to find out more about this Eva and her brilliant books. And if kids love The Secret of Platform 13, they’ll adore prize-winning author Sibéal Pounder’s sequel, Beyond Platform 13.
Who was Eva Ibbotson?
Eva Ibbotson’s life was as adventurous as those of the characters she created in her mystical middle-grade stories and sweeping young adult romances. Born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1925, at nine years old Eva moved to London to join her mother, a successful novelist and playwright, who had fled Vienna in 1933 after her work was banned by the Nazi authorities. Other members of Eva’s family also escaped Vienna and settled in England, and their shared experiences later influenced Eva’s writing, with the themes of home, refugees and immigration running through her books. Eva attended the prestigious Dartington Hall School, before studying Physiology at Cambridge University. After realising a career in science wasn’t for her; she retrained as a teacher. Eva didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties and her first children’s book, The Great Ghost Rescue, was published in 1975 when she was fifty years old. Despite her late literary start, Eva went on to write more than twenty books for children and won the Smarties Prize for her novel Journey to the River Sea in 2001. She died at her home in Newcastle in 2010, aged eighty-five.
Eva Ibbotson books for middle-grade readers
Eva Ibbotson’s fantasy stories are great for fans of magic, witches and wizards and Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series. Here are just a few of her best-loved middle-grade books.
Eva Ibbotson books for YA readers
Although best known for her books for children, Eva Ibbotson also wrote several historical romance novels. These novels are perfect for older teenagers and romantics alike.
For kids who love The Secret of Platform 13, return to the Island of Mist in Beyond Platform 13, the brand new adventure and sequel to Eva Ibbotson’s much-loved original.
Here, Sibéal tells us how much she loved The Secret of Platform 13 as a child, and what inspired her to write the sequel:
I still have my tattered old copy of The Secret of Platform 13 with my name carefully written in the corner. It was a world I adored as a child and when I was asked to write the sequel, the first character that popped into my head was Odge Gribble. She is a hag, though an ordinary one who looks human and wishes that she could have warts and impressive ear hair like her hag sisters. I love how Eva plays with perceptions of beauty so hilariously, and how she twists stereotypical fantasy characters for comedic effect. It’s something that has greatly influenced my work. In the case of Odge it goes further than merely being a funny play on a hag character, it’s also a commentary on beauty standards and how we can all be made to feel less than if it is decided there is one way to look.
In The Secret of Platform 13, Eva created an island, the Island of Mist, where all who found it were welcome and they could call it home. I loved that the royal family of the island were human – it wasn’t just a place for magical beings, like most other magical worlds – it was for everyone and every child who read it. What Eva created was a tiny inclusive island, built on a childhood of witnessing the extreme opposite. When she was a young girl in Austria the Nazis seized power and she and her parents escaped to the UK. Home is a strong theme in her books and I wanted the sequel to explore what it means to call somewhere home, who gets to decide and what can happen if we let such decisions fall into the wrong hands. And of course, if you are open and welcoming like the creatures on the Island of Mist, treasures like Eva arrive and make your little island far more magical than it ever was before.