Book Review by Grace Heine
Title: The Secret of Platform Thirteen
Written by: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: October 25, 1999
Paperback: 256 pages
“But in every city there are those who have not forgotten the old days or the old stories. The ghosts, for example … The people who plodged about in the sewers under the city and came up occasionally through the man holes beside the station, they knew … and so in their own way did the pigeons. They knew that the gump was still there and they knew where it led. By a long, misty and mysterious tunnel to a secret cove where a ship waited to take those who wished it to an island so beautiful that it took the breath away.” (page 3)
For nine days every nine years an abandoned door hidden in a forgotten railway station gives access to the Island. The Island is a magical place where trolls, dragons, humans, ogres, wizards, mistmakers and many other magical creatures live in harmony. Everyone was happy on the Island until nine years ago at the last gump opening when the crown prince was kidnapped. Now the gump is about to open again and the King and Queen have sent four rescuers: a wizard, a fey, a troll, and an ogre though the doorway into a strange place called London. Guided by the ghosts of Platform 13 the four rescuers find the prince but they discover the hardest job will be getting him back through the gump.
I’m an Eva Ibbotson fan girl and proud to admit it. Mrs. Ibbotson writes quirky fantasy and has penned one of my favorite books: Island of the Aunts. (also titled Monster Mission – although I personally like the other name better.) Unlike a different author I’m fangirling I have yet to read a book of hers I have not loved.
Many people have commented on how similar Harry Potter (first published in 1997) is to The Secret of Platform Thirteen (published in 1994). Raymond Trottle and Dudly Dursly are both fat and rude, there’s a doorway to a magical world inside a train station, an old wizard, and several other parallels.
To answer your next question: no, J.K. Rowling does not admit to having been inspired by The Secret of Platform Thirteen. She stated on Pottermore her reason for using King’s Cross Station was “personal.”
Unlike other authors, Ibbotson never filed a lawsuit over the similarities and, in fact, is quoted saying she would, “like to shake her [Rowling] by the hand. I think we all borrow from each other as writers(.)”
Guys, Eva Ibbotson is amazing.
The Secret of Platform Thirteen is a fun fantasy with many laugh out loud moments. I recommend it to those who like Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Kazam, or any other quirky fantasy.
Age Range: 7 and up (although teens may consider Ibbotson’s works too babyish, I think adults can appreciate her humor and quirky writing style.)
Violence: The wizard raises a creature without skin from the lake. We are told an assassin likes to kill people with knitting needles and a few times hear her thoughts about where to jab the needles. A boy is hit hard with a lamp. A woman falls out a window.
Sensuality: Mrs. Trottle complains about her husband while reading a romance novel. She also finds the double bass player handsome and arranges to sit near him while the hotel band plays. A girl wearing veils jumps out of a cake and dances while taking her veils off.
Other(drugs/alcohol): Raymond is a nasty, cruel, selfish boy. Mrs. Trottle steals a baby and lies to everyone.
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
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