The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken


In the kick-off novel in the Mad Misadventures series, 14-year-old pioneering aviatrix Emmaline Cayley is afraid of one thing: plummeting to her doom. Fortunately, 12-year-old Robert Burns, an indestructible village boy, is not. Absurdly unafraid of bodily harm, "Rubberbones" is the ideal pilot for Emmaline's experiments with flight. But before Emmaline can perfect a flying machine with the aid of her new friend, she is sent off to St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies -- to be cured of her decidedly unladylike ...
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In the kick-off novel in the Mad Misadventures series, 14-year-old pioneering aviatrix Emmaline Cayley is afraid of one thing: plummeting to her doom. Fortunately, 12-year-old Robert Burns, an indestructible village boy, is not. Absurdly unafraid of bodily harm, "Rubberbones" is the ideal pilot for Emmaline's experiments with flight. But before Emmaline can perfect a flying machine with the aid of her new friend, she is sent off to St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies -- to be cured of her decidedly unladylike ways. It is a school so strict, so severe, so forbidding that it makes the brutal misery in the tales of Charles Dickens look cheery by comparison. With a horrifying headmistress, terrifying teachers and food that is even worse than Aunt Lucy's, this medieval stronghold also houses a terrible secret and a mysterious way of keeping its prisoners, er, its students in line. All Emmaline can think of is escape. But no one has ever escaped from St. Grimelda's. And our heroine soon realizes that the only way out is to face her greatest fear.
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Editorial Reviews

The Toronto Star
A fun novel ...
From the Publisher
This comic tale is goofy and fun ? Slavin’s intricate pen-and-ink drawings are properly atmospheric.

A fun novel ...

Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Emmaline wants nothing more than to design a flying machine. When she meets Robert Burns (otherwise known as "Rubberbones" because of his seeming indestructibility), she finds her test pilot. Before they get too far with their plans, however, Emmaline is sent to St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. There she encounters horrifying teachers and students amidst a horrifying environment straight out of Dickens (or perhaps Snicket). Emmaline yearns to return to her Aunt Lucy's house and begins working on numerous escape plans. Even with the help of Robert Burns, her Aunt Lucy's butler Lah Singh, Professor Bellbuckle, and some student allies, this proves exceedingly difficult. And that is before the pterodactyls show up! Whitehouse's voice is entertaining, if a bit too reminiscent of Lemony Snicket's. One character's inept mastery of the English language borders on the offensive (Princess Purnah). If one can ignore the political incorrectness, this book is a very entertaining ride.
VOYA - Jennifer Feigelman
Fourteen-year-old Emmaline Cayley is, by her own description, a "pioneering scientist" and a "leader in the field of aeronautics." Enthralled by flying, she is determined to build a working flying machine. Although Emmaline is eager to construct it, she is fearful of piloting it. Serendipitously she meets the perfect pilot: young Robert Burns, known as "Rubberbones," or the boy who bounces and cannot be hurt. Working together, they make a lovely team, but their time is cut short when Emmaline is sent to St. Grimelda's School, the strictest school in the world. At this miserable institution, Emmaline is held prisoner and cannot escape the harsh rules, vindictive classmates, and malicious faculty. Emmaline's loving aunt and Rubberbones decide to help her escape the horrible school-where Emmaline will have to face her fear and pilot her own creation. Set in Victorian England, this whimsical fantasy smacks of Roald Dahl and similar writers who craft quirky characters and fanciful situations. Written in short chapters, each ending with a cliffhanger, this novel would be a lively choice as a read-aloud selection, and the fast-paced format may inspire and engage the most reluctant readers. Slavin's line-based illustrations capture the mood of the story perfectly. The characters are vividly written and the plot offers laugh-out-loud moments that will captivate young audiences, although it might be too young to hold older teens' attentions. The enchanting combination of fantasy, humor, and a slight gothic touch shall charm most young readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Emmaline Cayley grew up in India, but as she approaches the age of 14, her very proper mother (who is married to a very proper British colonial official) sends her home to England to attend the harsh St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. Emmaline is not interested in becoming a young lady-she wants to follow in the footsteps of her great-great-uncle, Sir George Cayley, and design flying machines. In the weeks before school starts, she teams up with Rab, a 12-year-old village boy whom everyone calls "Rubberbones" because he can fall out of a tree or get hit by a brick and suffer no damage, and the two of them build several gliders. Once Emmaline goes off to St. Grimelda's, her potty Aunt Lucy, Rubberbones, and their allies realize what a horror the place is and initiate an elaborate plot to help her escape on a giant, smuggled-in, homemade kite. This comic tale of a slightly alternative Victorian England is goofy and fun. It loses some of its impact, however, because the school-which uses the fearsome pterodactyls it has owned since the 16th century to catch any girls who try to escape-is built up as a horror. But its pompous, ruler-wielding headmistress and teachers don't seem to frighten Emmaline and her friends much, so they won't scare readers, either. Slavin's intricate pen-and-ink drawings are properly atmospheric. A sequel is virtually guaranteed.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this lighter-than-air Victorian school story, young Emmaline Cayley, consigned to Yorkshire's forbidding St. Grimelda's School For Young Ladies, Est. 1552, forms several alliances, including one with a startlingly bloodthirsty Indian princess, while outside her proudly "indestruckable" friend Robert Burns (aptly dubbed "Rubberbones") joins a quirky crew of adults to plot her rescue. That rescue turns out to be tougher than expected as the school is defended not only by its evil headmistress Malvolia Wackett, but also by a pair of trained pterodactyls. Still, after many reversals, the deed is done at last, with the help of unexpected aid from schoolmates, a large kite and a stash of gloriously unpredictable fireworks created by a mad American inventor. Slavin's frequent, fluidly drawn ink sketches portray the cast members with just the right degrees of sympathy or savagery. An entertaining mix of high and low comedy: Expect sequels, and look forward to them. (Fantasy. 10-12)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Howard Whitehouse was born in Birmingham, England and now lives in New York State with his wife. Howard has been in a rock band, worked with troubled kids, and written two history books. Now, in addition to writing novels, he writes and designs history games and paints model soldiers. He attended the venerable King Edward VII School, the model for St. Grimelda's.

Bill Slavin is an award-winning children's book illustrator with over 50 books to his credit. His works include Stanley's Party and The Bear on the Bed He lives in Millbrook, Ontario.

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