Author: Sally Gardner
Illustrator: David Roberts
Genre: Magical Realism / Fantasy
Target audience: 7+
UK Publisher: Orion
Series: Wings and Co. Book 1
Operation Bunny is charming story of magical mayhem and fairytales colliding with the real world.
Emily Vole is left inside a hatbox in the centre of a train station when she is just a baby. The Dashwoods are so desperate for a child that they wish for a baby. When they see the story of the abandoned baby on the news, they ask to adopt Emily. But life with Emily is not the fairytale ending Mrs Dashwood expected. Emily just doesn’t fit right. Her hair is the wrong colour and so Mrs Dashwood makes her wear a wig. Her eyes are the wrong colour and so Mrs Dashwood makes her wear contact lenses. In fact Emily is so unsatisfactory that Mrs Dashwood wants to send her back. When Mrs Dashwood discovers she is having triplets, Emily’s life takes a sadder turn. She is demoted to living in the laundry room and being the Dashwood’s servant.
But Emily is a resourceful and determined young girl. Though she can’t read or write, she likes to make up stories about the fairytale pictures in her book. One day when Emily is hanging out washing she finally meets her next door neighbours: Miss String and her man-sized cat Fidget. Knowing that Mrs Dashwood despises them, she can’t wait to get to know them better. They become friends and soon Emily realises that the magic in fairytales is real.
This story has a wonderfully contemporary feel to it. The language is modern and the pace of the story is fast and exciting. Yet there is also a very Dahl-esque darkness to the tale. Emily is quite simply abused and neglected. There is loss and cold-blooded murder. I liked that the story wasn’t sugar-coated. There is also the satisfaction for the reader of the child out-smarting the adults. Operation Bunny has all the magic ingredients for a perfect children’s novel.
My favourite part of the story was the characterisation of Fidget – the cat man. He has all these catterisms and fishy-sayings that bring the story to life and give it a unique twist. I really enjoyed this kooky story. It was funny and endearing. The illustrations were brilliantly entertaining. I especially loved all the different expressions on the faces of the rabbits. Operation Bunny is a quirky tale full of imagination. I highly recommend it. I’m sure it will become a favourite among newly fluent readers.
Source: Finished copy sent for review.