by Eva Ibbotson
Opening line: “Ellie had gone into the church because of her feet.”
When Ellie goes into the church, she discovers a baby left behind by its mother. The baby is named Annika and taken back to Vienna, where she grows up in the house of three professorial siblings.
It’s a charming story, with any number of sweet and funny characters. In several places I was reminded of Noel Streatfeild–it has very much that sort of sweet-but-not-sugary sensibility. The plot itself seemed similar in some places to A Company of Swans, except that here it comes across in a very different way.
Compared with Countess Below Stairs or A Company of Swans it’s definitely for younger audiences. And yet, I think that there’s nothing to prevent a teen or adult from enjoying it as well. Certainly, Ibbotson is a good enough writer to avoid any sloppiness, no matter what her audience.
As with all of Ibbotson’s books, there’s a great sense of the place and time here. Pre-war Vienna is shown in all its glory, complete with Emperor and Lipizzaners, marvellous cooks and parks.
Book source: public library
Book information: Dutton Children’s Books, 2004; grades 5-8
1. A Company of Swans
2. A Countess Below Stairs