cover image The Secret of Platform 13

The Secret of Platform 13

Eva Ibbotson. Dutton Books, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45929-3

This modern-day fairy tale featuring a group of endearing mythical creatures (and some less palatable Brits) follows four dwellers of a magical island journeying to London in search of their kidnapped prince. The appointed rescuers--Cornelius the Wizard (who ""could divide twenty-three-thousand-seven-hundred-and-forty-one by six-and-three-quarters in the time it took a cat to sneeze""); Hans, a one-eyed giant ogre; Gurkintrude, an ""agricultural"" fairy or ""growth goddess""; and Odge, a half-grown hag--have only nine days to complete their mission. After that, the hidden door to their world (located on Platform 13 inside a subway station) will be closed for another nine years. It will take readers less time than the quartet of seekers to realize a mix-up in the prince's true identity. The boy with royal blood is not the obnoxious, portly Raymond Trottle, but rather the Trottles' lowly (and lovable) servant, Ben. While predictability hampers the story's suspense, Ibbotson's dry wit, well-drawn characters and the unraveling-to-tying-up of loose threads provide plenty of amusement. This is light weight entertainment for fantasy buffs. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)