Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, Kevin Hawkes |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Island of the Aunts

Island of the Aunts

4.7 21
by Eva Ibbotson, Kevin Hawkes

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When the kindly old aunts decide that they need help caring for creatures who live on their hidden island, they know that adults can't be trusted. What they need are a few special children who can keep a secret-a secret as big as a magical island. And what better way to get children who can keep really big secrets, than to kidnap them! (After all, some children


When the kindly old aunts decide that they need help caring for creatures who live on their hidden island, they know that adults can't be trusted. What they need are a few special children who can keep a secret-a secret as big as a magical island. And what better way to get children who can keep really big secrets, than to kidnap them! (After all, some children just plain need to be kidnapped.) Don't miss this wildly inventive and funny read from master storyteller Eva Ibbotson.

Editorial Reviews
The author of Which Witch? and The Secret of Platform 13 delivers another wildly inventive and funny fantasy that will charm readers everywhere. Set on a mysterious island somewhere in the Atlantic, Island of the Aunts tells of three eccentric sisters who care for an assortment of astonishing creatures -- including mermaids, a couple of ghosts, a very long talking worm, and a boobrie that lays eggs so large, just one will make 72 omelets. It's hard work looking after so many, and Etta, Coral, and Myrtle are getting old. Therefore, they devise a scheme to kidnap a few sensible children to help them. Can they pull it off...and save the island?
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As in her earlier popular fantasies, Ibbotson (Which Witch?; The Secret of Platform 13) once again brews a delicious mix of magic, humor and adventure. "Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done," begins her latest novel, set on a remote island. The island's caretakers--three eccentric, kindly aunts who are getting on in years--need younger, able-bodied helpers to continue their mission: tending the injuries of unusual creatures (gigantic birds, talking seals, mermaids, etc.) who have been harmed by mankind. Resorting to desperate measures, the trio travels to the mainland to kidnap suitable candidates ("Of course it won't be a real kidnap because we shan't ask the parents for ransom"). Two of the abducted children are not sorry to leave home; they become fond of the island creatures and their captors almost immediately. But the brattiest, most spoiled of the three is intent on returning to the comforts of his mansion. Tension mounts when the children's whereabouts are discovered, putting at risk the island creatures' privacy and safety. The author's exquisite sense of humor plus an imaginative and memorable cast of characters make this a rollicking escapade with a timeless moral about respecting nature. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Here is a creative, whimsical novel in the fine British tradition of Roald Dahl. Three aunts live on a secret island in the Atlantic. They are charged with maintaining the safety and health of many strange and wonderful sea creatures, including mermaids, selkies, the stoorworm, and the giant kraken. But the aunts are growing older and need some help with their caretaking duties. They decide to kidnap some children and bring them to the island. Minette and Fabio are unwanted children who love working with the aunts. Lambert Sprott, on the other hand, is a spoiled brat who causes nothing but trouble. When Lambert's greedy father tracks Lambert down, he also threatens the lives of the beautiful creatures. He captures most of the island's inhabitants, intent on making money off of them back in England. Of course, the forces of good prevail in the end. Packed with witticisms and dry humor, children will laugh out loud at the wacky world Ibbotson has conjured up. 2000, Dutton Children's Books,
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-It isn't easy taking care of an entire island and its needy, sometimes magical inhabitants and visitors, so the caregivers, Aunts Myrtle, Etta, and Coral, decide to kidnap three children from London to help them with such tasks as cleaning mermaids who were caught in an oil slick and coaxing an egg-bound boobrie to lay its enormous eggs. Two of the children, Fabio and Minette, turn out to be enthusiastic workers who grow to love the island and their charges, but Lambert Sprott is a cell-phone-addicted brat. In fact, it is Lambert's nefarious father who, in rescuing his son, makes a near-successful attempt to exploit the isle's magical creatures for his own gain. The tone of this book is as no-nonsense as stern but kind Aunt Etta. No mercy is shown to self-obsessed, environment-polluting grown-ups and nasty, ill-behaved children, but sanctimony is held at bay by the dry humor that permeates the story. The plunder of the sanctuary by Mr. Sprott and his crew is filled with scenes of real menace and suspense-readers will not be able to put the book down until they know for sure that all the island's inhabitants are safe and sound. The 14 black-and-white illustrations add quiet charm and humor. A fine choice for fantasy lovers, especially fans of E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, and Jane Langton.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A mischarted island becomes a refuge for injured sea creatures—including a few mythical ones—in this now-poignant, now-farcical adventure from the author of The Secret of Platform 13 (1998). After decades of tending to oil-covered sea birds, traumatized mermaids, the occasional stoorworm (a wingless dragon) or elephant-sized boobrie bird, the three unmarried Harper sisters feel old age creeping up: so off they hie to spirit away three children to train as successors. They return with 10-year-old Minette, who has spent much of her life unhappily shuttling between extremely divorced parents, Brazilian-born Fabio, who is being forced into the mold of a young British gentleman at dreary Greymarsh Towers boarding school, and Lambert Sprott, spoiled scion of predatory entrepreneur Stanley Sprott. Minette and Fabio quickly fall in love with the island and its inhabitants, particularly after the mountain-sized Kraken, the oceans' mighty protector, wakes from a 100-year sleep and drops off his new son before beginning a world-spanning patrol. Lambert, however, a real chip off the old block, gives the game away as soon as he finds his cell phone. Enter Stanley, both to rescue his son and, dazzled by visions of a lucrative sideshow, to seize the island's less common residents just before the police arrive. Ibbotson's cast is made up largely of types and adult caricatures, but briskly stirring in oodles of complications, she brings the plot to a boil that climaxes with the enraged Kraken charging in to rescue his son on one side, and the Aunts caught in a sensational public trial for kidnapping on the other. The author dishes up a satisfying romp flavored with strong sympathy forthosewho care for the natural world rather than exploit it. Like her previous books, this will ride high on "Others Like Harry Potter" lists for its style of humor, sturdy young protagonists, and array of fantastical beings. (Fiction. 11-13) Jones, Diana Wynne YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN Greenwillow/HarperCollins (272 pp.) Oct. 31, 2000 The sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm (not reviewed) continues to spoof traditional fantasy, this time satirizing the "school for magic" genre. Nine years after the wizard Derk shut down the demonic Mr. Chesney's devastating Tours, Derk's precocious but naïve griffin daughter Elda enrolls in the Wizards' University, only to discover its crumbling infrastructure, stripped library, and stunted curriculum reflect a faculty intent on stifling innovation in favor of utilitarian mediocrity. Elda assembles the requisite motley assortment of stalwart friends, sketchily presented in reverse stereotypes: the poverty-stricken prince, the beautiful, compassionate commoner, the meek imperial princess, the revolutionary jargon-spouting dwarf, and the vaguely Eastern target of fanatic assassins. After a brief pep talk on free enquiry from Derk, the six rapidly outstrip their tutors' magical prowess, and are soon foiling various nefarious villains, inciting the overthrow of a repressive regime, stopping wars, and inventing interplanetary exploration. Meanwhile, each reveals the obligatory dark secret and overcomes personal trauma, and all are neatly paired off in a denouement of sudden, nigh-inexplicable romances. This is all fun, frothy stuff, and Jones writes with a deft hand and a wicked sense of the absurdities inherent in the conventional formulas. Teens harboring doubts about their teachers' competency and sanity will revel in it. But the breakneck pace makes for perfunctory characterization and a muddled narrative, delivering neither the inspired lunacy nor the sophisticated twisty plotting that her fans expect. Like a chocolate-covered marshmallow, this is tasty fluff, but unsatisfying. (Fiction. 11-14) Kay, Verla COVERED WAGONS, BUMPY TRAILS Illus. by S.D. Schindler Putnam (32 pp.) Oct. 2000

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.07(w) x 7.69(h) x 0.82(d)
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done. Aunt Etta and Aunt Coral and Aunt Myrtle were not natural kidnappers. For one thing, they were getting old, and kidnapping is hard work; for another, though they looked a little odd, they were very caring people. They cared for their ancient father and for their shriveled cousin Sybil, who lived in a cave and tried to foretell the future -- and most particularly they cared for the animals on the island on which they lived, many of which were quite unusual.

Some of the creatures that made their way to the Island had come far across the ocean to be looked after, and lately the aunts had felt that they could not go on much longer without help. And "help" didn't mean grown-ups who were set in their ways. "Help" meant children who were young and strong and willing to learn.

So, on a cool, blustery day in April, the three aunts gathered round the kitchen table and decided to go ahead. Some children had to be found and they had to be brought to the island, and kidnapping seemed the only sensible way to do it.

"That way we can choose the ones who are suitable," said Aunt Etta. She was the eldest; a tall, bony woman who did fifty press-ups before breakfast and had a small but not at all unpleasant mustache on her upper lip.

The others looked out of the window at the soft green turf, the sparkling sea, and sighed, thinking of what had to be done. The sleeping powders, the drugged hamburgers, the bags and sacks and cello cases they would need to carry the children away in...

"Will they scream and wriggle, do you suppose?" asked Aunt Myrtle, who was the youngest. She suffered from headaches and hated noise.

"No, of course not. They'll be unconscious," said Aunt Etta. "Flat out. I don't like it any more than you do," she went on, "but you saw the program on TV last week."

The others nodded. When they first came to the Island, they hadn't had any electricity, but after his hundredth birthday their father's toes had started to turn blue because not enough blood got to his feet, and they had ordered a generator so he could have an electric blanket. After that they thought they might as well have an electric kettle, and then a TV.

But the TV had been a mistake because of the nature programs. Nature programs always end badly. First you see the hairy-nosed wombats frisking about with their babies, and then five minutes before the end you hear that there are only twelve breeding pairs left in the whole of Australia. Or there are pictures of the harlequin frogs of Costa Rica croaking away on their lily leaves, and the next minute you are told that they're doomed because their swamps are being drained. Worst of all are the rainforests. The aunts could never see a program about the rainforests without crying, and last week there had been a particularly bad one with wicked people burning and slashing the trees, and pictures of the monkeys and the jaguars rushing away in terror.

The others had seen the point at once. If a whole rainforest can become extinct, why not three elderly ladies? And if they became extinct, what would happen to their work and who would care for the creatures that came to the Island in search of comfort and care?

There was another thing that bothered the aunts. Lately the animals that came to the Island simply wouldn't go away again. Long after they were healed, they stayed on -- it was almost as if they knew something -- and that made more and more work for the aunts. There was no doubt about it, help had to be brought in, and quickly

So now they were deciding what to do.

"How do you find the right children?" asked Myrtle. She looked longingly out at the point where the seals were resting. One of the seals, Herbert, was her special friend, and she would very much rather have been out there playing her cello and singing her songs to him.

"We shall become Aunts," said Etta firmly, settling her spectacles on her long nose.

The others looked at her in amazement. "But we are aunts," they said. "How can we become them?"

This was true. There had been five sisters who had come to the Island with their father many years ago. they had found a ruined house and deserted beaches with only the footprints of sandpipers and herring gulls on the sand, and barnacle geese resting on the way from Greenland, and the seals, quite unafraid, coming out of the water to have their pups.

They had started to repair the house, and planted a garden, and then one day they had found an oiled seabird washed up on a rock.... Only it turned out not to be an oiled seabird. It was oiled all right, but it was something quite different -- and after that, they realized that they had been called to the Island by a Higher Power, and that they had found their life's work.

But one of the sisters, Betty, had not cared for the island. She hated the wind and the rain and the fish scales in her tea and the eider ducklings nesting in her bedroom slippers. She had gone away and got married to a tax inspector in Newcastle upon Tyne, and now she lived in a house with three kinds of toilet freshener in the loo and sprays to make her armpits smell nice and not a fish scale in sight.

But the point was that she had two children. They were horrible, but they were children. She called the boy Boo-Boo and the girl Little One (though they had proper names, of course). But horrible though they were, they were children, and because of this, her sisters had become aunts since all you have to do to become an aunt is have nephews and nieces.

Which is why now the sisters looked surprised and said: "But we are aunts."

"Not that kind," said Etta impatiently. "I mean the kind that live in an office or an agency and call themselves things like Useful Aunts or Universal Aunts or Aunts Inc. -- the kind that parents pay to take their children to school and to the dentist, or to sit with them when they are ill."

"Why don't the parents do it themselves?" asked Myrtle.

"Because they're too busy. People used to have real aunts and grandmothers and cousins to do it all, but now families are too small and real aunts go to dances and have boyfriends," said Etta, snorting.

Coral nodded her head. She was the arty one, a large plump person who fed the chickens in a feather boa and interesting jewelry, and at night by the light of the moon, she danced the tango.

"It's a good idea, she said. "You would be able to pick and choose the children -- you don't want to end up with a Boo-Boo or a Little One."

"Yes, but if the parents are truly fond of the children we shouldn't do it," said Myrtle, pushing back her long gray hair.

"Well, of course not," said Etta. "We don't want a hue and cry."

"But if the children are nice, the parents would be fond of them," said Myrtle. "And if they aren't, we don't want them either."

Etta sniffed. "You'd be surprised. There are children all over the place whose parents don't know how lucky they are."

They went on talking for a long time, but no one could think of anything better than Etta's plan -- not if the position of the Island was to be kept secret, and there was nothing more important than that.

There was one more aunt who would have been useful -- not the one with the three kinds of toilet freshener, who was of no use for anything -- but Aunt Dorothy, who was next in age to Etta and would have been just the sort of person to have on a kidnapping expedition. But Dorothy was in prison in Hong Kong. She had gone out there to stop a restaurant owner from serving pangolin steaks -- pangolins are beautiful, scaly mammals that are getting rare and should never be eaten -- and Dorothy had got annoyed and hit the restaurant owner on the head with his own wok, and they had put her in prison. She was due out in a month, but in the meantime only the three of them could go on the mission, and they weren't at all sure about Myrtle because she was not very good out in the world, and when she was away she always pined for Herbert.

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay behind, Myrtle?" said Coral now. But Myrtle had decided to be brave and said she thought that she should come along and do her bit.

"Only we won't say anything to Daddy," said Etta. "After all, kidnapping is a crime and he might worry."

Captain Harper lived upstairs in a big bed with a telescope, looking out to sea. They had mostly given up telling him things. For one thing, he was stone deaf so that explaining anything took a very long time, and for another, as soon as he saw anybody he started telling them stories about what life had been like when he was a boy. They were good stories but ever single aunt had heard them about three hundred times, so they didn't hang around if they could help it.

But they did go and tell the Sybil. She was the old cousin who had come to the Island soon after them. Sybil was bookish and one day she had read a book about Greek mythology and about a person called the Sybil (not just Sybil) who was a prophetess and could foretell the future. So she had started prophesying about the weather, mumbling on about depressions over Iceland and the windchill factor, and really she didn't get it wrong much more often than the weathermen on the telly. Then she had moved on to other things and had gone to live in a cave with bats because that was where prophetesses were supposed to live. She had stopped washing because she said washing would weaken her powers, so that she was another person one did not visit for too long.

When the aunts told her that they were going to the mainland to kidnap some children, the Sybil got quite excited. Her face turned blue and her hair began to stand on end, and for a moment they hoped she was going to tell them something important about the journey.

But it turned out that what she was foreseeing was squally showers, and what she said was "take seasick pills," which they had decided to do anyway for the boat.

They still had to make sure that their cook, who was called Art, knew exactly what to do while they were away on their mission. Art was an escaped convict who had been washed up in a rowing boat on their shore. He had killed a man when he was young, and now he wouldn't kill anything with arms or legs or eyes -- not even a shrimp -- but he made excellent porridge. Then they gathered together all the things they would need: chloroform and sleeping powders and anesthetizing darts, which they used for stunning animals that were injured so that they could set their limbs. All of them had things to carry the children away in: Aunt Etta had a canvas holdall, Aunt Coral had a tin trunk with holes bored into it, and Aunt Myrtle had her cello case. They waited for the wind to change so they could sail the Peggoty to the next island and catch the steamer; they were terribly excited.

It was a long and difficult journey -- many years ago the army had tried to use the Island for experiments in radio signals, and so to keep its position secret, they had changed the maps and forbidden boats to come near it. In the end the army hadn't used it after all, but it was still a forgotten place and the aunts meant to see that it stayed that way.

"Of course, it won't be a real kidnap because we shan't ask the parents for a ransom," said Etta.

"It'll be more of a child snatch," Coral agreed.

But whether it was a kidnap or a child snatch, it was still dangerous and wicked, and as they waved good-bye to the Island their hearts were beating very fast.

Meet the Author

Eva Ibbotson, born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner (21 January 1925 – 20 October 2010), was an Austrian-born British novelist, known for her children's books. Some of her novels for adults have been successfully reissued for the young adult market in recent years. For the historical novel Journey to the River Sea (Macmillan, 2001), she won the Smarties Prize in category 9–11 years, garnered unusual commendation as runner up for the Guardian Prize, and made the Carnegie, Whitbread, and Blue Peter shortlists. She was a finalist for the 2010 Guardian Prize at the time of her death. Her last book, The Abominables, was one of eight books on the longlist for the same award in 2012.

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Island Of The Aunts (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of my favorite books from when I was younger. I loved all of Eva Ibbotson's books, I think this was the first one I read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was filled with exciting stories and creatures that are so real they leep off the page. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story and is willing to get lost in a book of wonderus dreams and fantasy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a reluctant reader, I wrestled this book from my 12 year old niece never to put it down. Island of the Aunts is the perfect read for parents and children. Please sit down with your child and share this intelligent, humorous and thought provoking book. You will hang on every word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is vey funny and exciting! I loved it! IT made you want to read more and more! I recommend it for anyone who wants a good book to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a book I want to read over and over again! It just brought me into the story and on the island with Fabio and Minette and sadly, even Lambert. While reading this book I wanted to be able to see a Boobrie, a Kraken and a Selki. My favorite character was Fabio because he wouldn't let anything put him down! I wish I could meet Eva Ibbotson and tell her how much I loved this story!
Guest More than 1 year ago
TOTALLY AWESOME!!! this book is amazing it's so good you read and read and read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ibbotson shows the magical touch that has shown in all of her other books. She is one of the best authors in the world and her books will leave you spell bound. Her books are some of the best I've ever read!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book because of all the mytacal creatures and because it is kind of funny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a awsome book about three aunts and their crazy island, and the creautears that live on the island. you will not be able to put this book down, TRUST ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a great book. If you enjoy books about fantasy, adventure, and SURPRISES, then you should definitely read this book!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was extremley good. It has amazingly catchy, non-boring beginning, a great middle, and a wonderful end!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ibbotson really brings things like mermaids to life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hi. I am in sixth grade and I love reading about fantasy. If you like Harry Potter, than you will love this book. Its filled with intresting little details and the ending is really unexpected.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good but not one of my favorites. The begginning and middle are GREAT!!! When it's the end, the book sorta falls apart but it was still an awesome book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a fabulous fantasy story. Getting to know the wacky aunts that run the island was almost as much fun as getting to know the wacky creatures that live on the island. The story introduces us to krankens, stoorworms, selkies, and tons of other amazing things. The aunts and their island would be fun family at the Thanksgiving table!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best everyone should read it and also secret of platform 13 both good books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt this book was a bit too involved for 4th grade reading. My child ia a gifted student and an avid reader, but I had to read this book along with her...the vocabulary and writing even gave ME trouble at times. The characters were interesting as was the story overall, but I would NOT recommend this book until 6th grade personally.