Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

A Fidget, some fairies, and a whole load of (flopsy) bunnies

Posted on | October 24, 2012 | 10 Comments

If you don’t already believe in magic, Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts will make you wish you did.

A modern-day fairy story, complete with a wicked witch, enchanted golden keys, a cruel step-mother, talking animals, an abandoned baby and plenty of excitement, laughter, and yes, sparkling magic throughout, this first book in a new detective series for young readers is a delight.

At the heart of the story is Emily Vole, a determined young girl who inherits a mysterious shop from Miss Ottoline String, a fairy god-mother type character in more ways than one. Having put up with a life of drudgery long enough, Emily seizes the opportunity to escape from her mean (though ultimately not entirely loveless) step-mother. This might have been straight forward had it not been for Harpella, a witch with a penchant for neon-orange platform shoes, who is desperate to get her hands on some mysterious keys which come to life in Emily’s hands. Spells are cast and bunnies abound, high speed chases are run and a story unfolds of fairies whose wings have been clipped and stored away for their own safety.

Gardner’s writing is so satisfying to read; she plays with words in such a natural way that you read some of her sentences and immediately want to read them again, just to feel them roll around on your tongue (this is one of the reasons why I’d recommend this as a family read-aloud: Parents – don’t miss out on this by letting your child read Operation Bunny to only to themselves!). Catchphrases and linguistic jokes make the writing funny, comforting and refreshing. We have officially adopted “Buddleia and Bindwind!” as our new family phrase to exclaim in frustration when things are going wrong.

Whilst language lovers will enjoy Gardner’s trip-off-the-tongue, witty writing, book lovers will appreciate the perhaps autobiographical elements from Gardner in this tale; Emily does not learn to read or write until much later than most children (Gardner herself learned to read only in her teens), but from the start she loves books. “Every night, she sat on her ironing-board bed, holding the garden torch and staring open-mouthed at all the pictures. She couldn’t read the words but there was enough to look at for Emily’s imagination to fill in the gaps.

David Roberts’ illustrations in Operation Bunny an extra layer of delight to this book. His black and white illustrations every couple of pages are quirky, and his versions of the cast of Operation Bunny are lovable without being sugary-sweet, capturing the chaos and dark shadows in this book equally well.

Sally Gardner does magic exceptionally well (do read her I, Coriander for older readers if you haven’t already done so, or her Magical Children series for younger kids). This book, too, is sprinkled with sparkle and charm, whilst its modern references (credit cards and hedge fund managers make an appearance) help the story feel fresh, and invite the flight of fancy that Emily and her cat Fidget could be living right now in a town nearby. The rich cast of engaging, exciting characters are multi-dimensional (although social workers are not portrayed in the best of lights) and believable, with interesting pasts and, in the case of Emily Vole, an undoubtedly exciting future; I’m delighted to say that the second in the series, Three Pickled Herrings, will be out on 7 February 2013, with a third volume planned for summer next year.

Having enjoyed Operation Bunny so much I “helped” the girls discover a magical set of mini golden keys which somehow materialised on our house.

Just between you and me, I got a lovely set of key charms from this Etsy seller, and then painted them gold (with enamel paint, so that it adhered well).

The keys “opened” a desk inside which they found everything they needed to make fairy wings, not for themselves, but for real fairies who have had their wings taken from them. Supplies included…
Skeleton leaves
Watercolour paints
Glue
Glitter
Ribbon
Felt

The girls used the watercolour paints to colour the skeleton leaves.

Once the paint was dry, dabs of glue and shakings of glitter were added.

The wings were joined to each other by glueing them between a small, folded over piece of felt, and then ribbon was threaded through the folded-over felt so that the wings could easily be attached to the fairies who needed them.

I would have quite liked to put on a pair myself!

But instead the girls scoured the house for possible fairy candidates who needed new wings.

Once all the fairies were ready to fly, we danced the afternoon away!

Oh this was so much fun!

Whilst making the fairy wings we listened to:

  • Magic by Rabbit
  • Mr Rabbit by Caspar Babypants
  • My Magic Trick by Ralph’s World


  • Other activities (these all make sense once you’ve read the book) which might be fun to get up to alongside reading Operation Bunny include:

  • Making your own dragon’s tooth – from fimo or air hardening clay. Enchanted learning has a page about dinosaur teeth which could give you some ideas for your own dragon teeth.
  • Baking fairy cakes with red and green icing
  • Topiary! Even with young kids! I love this project from The Green Lady.

  • If you liked the sound of Operation Bunny, do come back tomorrow when I’ve got a special giveaway – three copies signed by both author and illustrator are up for grabs!

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of Operation Bunny from Orion Books. I was under no obligation to review the book and I received no money for this post.

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    Comments

    10 Responses to “A Fidget, some fairies, and a whole load of (flopsy) bunnies”

    1. Stacey
      October 24th, 2012 @ 12:58 am

      Oh my goodness! This looks absolutely marvelous and new to me. I have it all pre-ordered and ready to go :) I’m also not familiar with Gardner’s titles. Looks like I have some exploring to do!
      Stacey recently posted..On “My 6,128 Favorite Books”

    2. Meikah Ybañez-Delid
      October 24th, 2012 @ 4:15 am

      Love the butterfly wings! Over the weekend, my kids and I spent the afternoon in a bookstore and choosing art materials. All of a sudden they wanted new stuff for art. Will see what they’ll come up in the coming days. LOL :)
      Meikah Ybañez-Delid recently posted..Enchanting Hallowee Trick or Treat at Enchanted Kingdom

    3. Zoe
      October 24th, 2012 @ 8:02 am

      Stacey, I think you’d like Gardner’s books :) Let me know how you get on.

    4. Zoe
      October 24th, 2012 @ 8:03 am

      Hi Meikah, aaah… new art stuff… I love that! Always inspiring (especially if combined with a visit to a bookshop!)

    5. Mevrouw Kinderboek
      October 24th, 2012 @ 9:33 am

      It looks like you all liked the book and activities very much. I only know Sally Gardner’s books for teens. This book looks just a little bit different. For what age do ‘you think it would be nice?
      I had not seen skeleton leaves before. Sounds like fun! And the golden keys look fantastic!
      Mevrouw Kinderboek recently posted..Getest door Danique: Lizzy (Suzanne Buis)

    6. Zoe
      October 24th, 2012 @ 9:44 am

      Hoi Jennifer, I read it aloud to my 4 and 7 year olds and they both loved it. For a kids to read to themselves, I’d probably say 8-10ish. Has Sally Gardner been translated into Dutch then? Can you recommend any Dutch writers who are a little like her?
      Zoe recently posted..A Fidget, some fairies, and a whole load of (flopsy) bunnies

    7. Library Mice
      October 24th, 2012 @ 11:09 am

      I ma reading it at the moment :0)
      Library Mice recently posted..SPOTLIGHT ON: Miss Clara

    8. maggy, red ted art
      October 24th, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

      I LOVE these. How gorgeous!! I need to find some skeleton leaves!!

      Maggy
      maggy, red ted art recently posted..Kids Crafts: Chestnuts Crafts – Spiderwebs

    9. Crystal
      October 24th, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

      I love those Etsy charms, fabulous.

    10. Susan Stephenson
      October 28th, 2012 @ 8:39 am

      No wonder those delightful girls always wear big smiles! You put magic into all our days, Zoe.
      Susan Stephenson recently posted..Start Kids Writing with Fun Image Editors

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