In a starred review, PW wrote, "Although there are no ghosts at large, this fairytale-like novel set in Vienna during Franz Joseph's reign features the same unique blend of bigger-than-life adventure, sparkling wit and intricate plotting that characterizes Ibbotson's previous novels." Ages 8-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Ibbotson's marvelous dreams-come-true tale about the foundling Annika is really a love story in disguise. Between two people? No, between the author and her birthplaceVienna, and the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the twentieth century. Who could resist the tortes and strudels eleven-year-old Annika lovingly learns to make under the tutelage of Ellie, her adopted mother? Who could resist the endearingly eccentric household of professors who take Annika in and gently educate her? Who could resist the descriptions of old Vienna's Prater Gardens, and the Lippizaners . . . . Yet wending its way through all this marvelous schlag is a plot about wicked birthmothers, and friends who yearn to break through boundaries set upon them by birth, and the rising militarism of the neighboringand less genialGerman Empire. Also wafting behind the scenes is one of Ibbotson's trademark ghostsin this case the memory of "La Rondine," the ancient actress whom Annika befriends in the woman's fading days. It is impossible to describe the many threads that hold this book together. But it is a joy to read. Since the Newbery winner Kate Seredy described her beloved Hungarian puszta in the 1930s and 40s, no one has ever caught the flavor of this time and place as well. 2004, Dutton, Ages 8 to 12.
Annika is a foundling. Ellie, a cook, and Sigrid, a housekeeper, found the abandoned baby in a church and raised her in their warm and loving servants' quarters. For eleven years, Annika has grown up happy-learning to be a fine cook and roaming the streets of early twentieth-century Vienna with her friends-until the day that a fine lady, just like the one she has always dreamed about, steps out of a beautiful carriage and tells Annika that she is her long-lost mother. Going with her new mama to live at her family's ancestral home, Spittal, Annika tries to be happy, but all is not well at the crumbling old castle and Annika's friends in Vienna may be the only ones who can save her. Ibbotson's books are some of the finest imports from England. Writing here with her signature style-slightly creepy, but never enough to give the reader true nightmares, only a delicious shiver-her work is the best possible follow-up for younger middle school readers who loved Roald Dahl. Annika's story is not one of Ibbotson's fantasies, but is instead an engaging, page-turning, historical fiction that is highly recommended for all libraries. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Dutton, 336p., Ages 11 to 14.
Gr 5-8-Abandoned as a baby, Annika is found and adopted by Ellie and Sigrid, cook and housemaid for three professors. Growing up in early-20th-century Vienna, she learns to cook and clean and is perfectly happy until a beautiful aristocrat appears and claims to be her mother, sweeping her off to a new life in a crumbling castle in northern Germany. Annika is determined to make the best of things, and it takes a while for her to realize that her new "family" has many secrets, most of them nasty. With the help of Ellie, Sigrid, the professors, and friends old and new, Annika escapes from a ghastly fate and learns to face the truth about her relatives. Winding like a braid through this story is a mystery involving a chest of worn costumes and junk jewelry left to Annika by an old woman she has befriended. This is a rich saga in the tradition of Frances Hodgson Burnett, full of stalwart friends, sly villains, a brave heroine, and good triumphing over evil. Annika's determination to do the right thing is both laudable and utterly frustrating, especially when readers realize that her loyalty is misplaced. Almost every character is distinct, but the ones that stand out are the "regular folk," individuals whose sense of decency propels them into amazing acts of courage. Vienna itself is colorfully portrayed, brimming with pastries, coffee, and dancing Lipizzaner horses. An intensely satisfying read.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Ibbotson, master of the "poor orphan makes good" tale, offers another eminently satisfying example, this one wrapped in a valentine to Vienna, the author's natal city. Raised by servants to be "a person who was interested in doing things, not having them," 11-or-so-year-old foundling Annika sees a dream come true when lovely, regal Edeltraut von Tannenberg appears at the door one day, joyously announcing that she's her real mother. Blinded by adoration, Annika barely notices how badly in need of repairs is her fortress-like new home, or how poorly she fits in with her spoiled and predatory new "family." Readers will, though, as piece by piece, the author reveals an elaborate, clever fraud involving faked documents, smoothly plausible lies, and a hoard of supposedly imitation jewelry that Annika has inherited from an elderly neighbor. Creating suspense by letting readers into the scheme long before Annika and her friends, Ibbotson also paints a vivid picture of pre-WWI Vienna, from its delectable pastries to the famed show horses of the Spanish Riding School. Along with this beguiling atmosphere and expertly developed plot, readers will long remember the admirable Annika and cheer her eventual, well-deserved, triumph. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 10-13)
“Ibbotson, master of the ‘poor orphan makes good’ tale, offers another eminently satisfying example… [R]eaders will long remember the admirable Annika and cheer her eventual, well-deserved, triumph.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review