Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ogre of Oglefort

Horn Book (July/August, 2011)

Ibbotson's playful humor, pungent turns of phrase, and sturdy friendliness toward her child heroes suffuse this novel (her second-to-last book), a fantasy that has its share of dramatic conflict but at heart celebrates the value of a peaceful home in which "people...[do] not want to be changed but...[are] content to be themselves." A displaced Hag and troll, a hapless wizard, and Ivo, an orphan whose look is "so attentive, so eager and intelligent" that he passes as an Unusual Creature, are told to slay a dreaded Ogre who holds a princess captive. But it turns out that Princess Mirella is with the Ogre of her own choice: she wants him to change her into a bird so she needn't marry foolish Prince Umberto. The Ogre doesn't want to transform her; he's a grieving widower who just wants to join his wife in her grave mound. Ivo, Mirella, and their magical friends become grief counselors, castle-and-garden renovators, and, briefly, a fighting force whose arsenal includes a soup tureen, roof tiles, and plagues of frogs, warts, and the Great Itch. In this one-darn-thing-after-another story, Ibbotson champions children's courage and intelligence and, in fantastical mode, illuminates the insidious evil of the overly interfering. deirdre f. baker

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