Friday, January 10, 2014


It’s time to pay homage to one of the lesser-known giants in MG literature, Eva Ibbotson, who sadly passed away several years ago.  Some might argue that even before her death she was a hugely established author.  After all, how many writers have blurbs from Phillip Pullman on their book covers?  And it cannot be denied that she has appeared on some bestseller lists.  However, I’m continually amazed by the number of MG authors who tell me they’ve never read her books.

And they’re not big books.  A typical Ibbotson novel is under 200 pages.  No convoluted plots here.  This master of fantasy creates stories that are engrossing and adventurous, yet somehow maintain a splendid simplicity that is perfectly suited for elementary school kids.  And let’s not forget, that is who we’re writing for.
Eva has achieved legendary status in England, where she resided for decades.  She often wrote ghost stories.  Humor is her trademark.  She is hilarious.  There may not be a funnier writer in all of MG literature. 

One of my favorite Ibbotson novels is ‘The Great Ghost Rescue’.  Because of modernization, many ghosts are getting kicked out of castles that are getting turned into condominiums.  Swamp ghosts have nowhere to live because marshes are being drained to put up malls.  What will they do?  With the help of an orphan boy, the ghosts decide to journey to London to plead their case in front of the Prime Minister.  What a quest!
Eva’s ghost stories are never too spooky or terrifying for young children.  She strikes a perfect balance of light and dark, yin and yang. 

Other Ibbotson masterpieces include ‘Dial-A-Ghost’ and ‘Which Witch?’  There are many to choose from.  There is no such thing as a bad Eva Ibbotson novel.  I suggest that you pick one up.  Quickly!  


  1. I have a few Ibbotson books in my classroom library, and I know there are quite a few in our school library as well. They ARE great books, and yet they have never been books that "caught fire" with the kids for whatever reason.

    I have heard industry professionals say that agents and editors are tired of MG series books, but MG readers aren't. They all seem to prefer a series to a standalone, in my observation.

  2. Yes and yes to Ibbotson. Interesting observation from Dianne K. In a brand-crazy world maybe it's as important for the author as the reader to keep a series running...?

  3. James, so glad you are giving Eva Ibbotson some love. She is one of my faves. THE SECRET OF PLATFORM THIRTEEN was written several years before anyone had ever heard of J.K. Rowling and Platform 9 and 3/4s. And my then 4th-grade BOY sat spellbound as we read JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA together last year.

    Dianne, what agents and editors say ("no series, sick of fantasy" etc.) seems indicative of their fatigue rather than what our real MG readers are asking for.

  4. Which Witch and The Secret of Platform 13 were two of my favourite books growing up. I don't think I know anyone in real life whose read any Ibbotson (but I don't know very many readers in real life, so there is that). I've recently rediscovered Ibbotson so this post is quite timely for me :)

  5. Chiming in to say I totally agree. She has one of my all time favorite first lines, from Island of the Aunts - "Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done." How can you not keep reading?


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!