Sally Gardner, Operation Bunny

Orion, 2012, ISBN 978-1-44440-0372-7

When a baby is found abandoned in a hatbox in Stansted Airport, Daisy and Ronald Dashwood, who lack for nothing except a child (and compassion), rush to adopt her. But Emily Vole does not meet Daisy’s exacting standards of appearance. Once Daisy discovers she is pregnant with triplets, five-year old Emily becomes redundant. As she cannot send her back to the orphanage, Daisy puts her to work. Salvation comes in the form of a strange elderly lady, Miss Ottoline String, from next door and Fidget, her huge talking cat. They secretly help Emily with her chores, and give her an education. Miss String also tells her tales about Wings and Co, an unusual shop that used to be run by fairies, and solved mysteries. Then she is killed, leaving her estate, including the shop, to Emily. She and Fidget race to save it from fairy-hating witch Harpella. Dangers abound, as they struggle to resurrect the Fairy Detective Agency.

Sally Gardner has created an intriguing and inventive cast of characters in Operation Bunny, the first in what will be a Wings and Co series. Emily is an appealing hero, and Fidget and Miss String are delightful, while the Dashwoods and Harpella are excellent villains. Fairies here are not whimsical wisps, but are strong-willed and combative. The plot is fast-paced, with plenty of twists and turns and surprises.

Gardner’s writing has an impressive lightness of touch and lots of subtle humour. She has a great ear for dialogue. David Roberts’ quirky illustrations are a perfect match for this appealing story of magic and mystery.