By Eva Ibbotson
Illustrated by Fiona Robinson
Available now from Amulet Books (Abrams)
Published in the UK in 2012 from Marion Lloyd Books
Eva Ibbotson was one of my favorite authors as I child. I first discovered her through a reprint of WHICH WITCH? and quickly devoured all of her other books currently in print. She was like a gentler Roald Dahl, imaginative and funny. She played with the elements of traditional fantasy in a way that made them her own.
Now, a posthumous novel THE ABOMINABLES is being released with artwork by Fiona Robinson. Robinson's illustrations are a great match for Ibbotson's words and really express the good-natured silliness of the yetis that star in this cross-country adventure. THE ABOMINABLES was completed by Ibbotson's son and editor, but there is no noticeable difference from Ibbotson's usual voice.
A family of yetis lived happily in the Himalayas for centuries, taught slightly skewed manners by Englishwoman Lady Agatha who was kidnapped in order to raise them. But now, tourists are on the verge of discovering the yetis, which would be disastrous. A plan is hatched to transport the yetis to Agatha's home in England under the care of two young siblings, Con and Ellen.
The long journey allows the yetis to come across a variety of strange customs and characters, and unfortunately see the worst that humanity has to offer. (Well, some of the worst. THE ABOMINABLES always remains appropriate for children.) At the same time, Con, Ellen, and the truck driver they enlist are all wonderful people, as are the others who eventually help the yetis. There's good to balance the bad.
THE ABOMINABLES is a delightful, imaginative tale with a strong moral center. There are some laughs about the yetis, who sometimes take it to far (such as apologizing to a cake they're about to eat), but the earnestness of this novel is charming. The darker moments keep THE ABOMINABLES from becoming saccharine.
I didn't quite enjoy THE ABOMINABLES as much as I did the Ibbotson novels I read in childhood. Of course, I am not a child any longer and sometimes it's hard to tap into the old magic. For instance, I never quite stopped feeling sorry for Lady Agatha's father, who never learned that his daughter lived a long, happy life.