My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I came to this following the reccomendation of the excellent Ali of Fantastic Reads. Her review is here and I urge you all to go read it forthwith because it’s a perceptive, warm and precise review of this book.
Now that that’s done, here’s what I thought. And I’m sorry but I’m going to be repetitive (and I think that may tell you something of the delightful just-another-layer-of-the-chocolate-box quality of this book).
Operation Bunny is a charming Ibbotson-esque tale of Emily Vole who is adopted into a world full of magic. Naturally doesn’t happen straight away. Initially she is adopted by the difficult and demanding Dashwoods and once they have children of their own, Emily is relegated into a nanny-housemaid-cleaner hybrid. She’s rescued from this life of drudgery by the next door neighbours, Miss String and Fidget, the cat. And also by a set of sentient keys.
I love this. Regardless of how I’ve felt about Gardner’s work in the past, I’ve always been aware of the quality of her writing and in this it shines. Operation Bunny gave me the giggles in several places. This is primarily down to Gardner’s talent in sprinting from the ‘normal’ to the ‘magic’ and back again. She spins a story that’s palpably real and one that you sort of genuinely feel might actually occur.
One thing that is noticeable in a book of this nature is how much of a debt is owed to the illustrator. David Roberts’ work is superb and to be honest, even if the book had been hideous(which is distinctly the opposite of what it is), I would be telling you to go and look at his delightfully macabre images. They’re pitched perfectly at that point where the quirky could become a little unnerving and they’re superb. Obviously not everything in this book is scary – Emily and Fidget themselves are beautiful. The confidence of Fidget is a delight. It stands out particularly on the cover where he poses, smiling with a quiet satisfaction, just behind the wide eyed yet repressed exuberance of Emily.
This is a magical, magical book and I’d recommend it for those who enjoy Susie Day’s Pea books and Jacqueline Harvey’s Alice-Miranda series. There’s a similar sense of glorious exuberance in in all these titles that the reader can’t help but respond to.