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The secret of platform 13
Other title(s):
Secret of platform thirteen


1st American ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, 1998.
Physical Description:
231 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in Great Britain in 1994"--Preliminary page.
Island of the aunts.
Odge Gribble, a young hag, joins an old wizard, a gentle fey, and a giant ogre on a journey from their magical island kingdom to London through a tunnel which opens every nine years for nine days, to try and rescue the young prince who had been stolen as an infant nine years before.
Reading Level:
Middle School.

910 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 5.8.

Reading Counts! 5.6.
Added Author:


Call Number

On Order



A hilarious fantasy for fans of Carroll, Nesbit, and Barrie!In the British tradition of comic fantasies, here is a wildly witty caper that would make Lewis Carroll laugh and E. Nesbit snicker.A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom -an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs. Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it's up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed? In a plot thick with mayhem, mix-ups, and magic, there is something to please all. Fantasy lovers in particular will not want to miss this peek through the door of Platform 13 into the imagination of a deliciously clever writer.

Author Notes

Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, Austria, on January 21, 1925. She graduated from Bedford College, London with a degree in physiology in 1945 and the University of Durham with a degree in education in 1965. Her first book, The Great Ghost Rescue, was published in 1975. She primarily wrote children's book and romance novels for adults and young adults. Her other works include The Secret of Platform 13, The Star of Kazan, Which Witch?, Island of the Aunts, Dial-a-Ghost, The Ogre of Oglefort, A Company of Swans, and A Song For Summer. She won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize for Journey to the River Sea. She died on October 20, 2010 at the age of 85.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6‘The door between our world and the enchanted Island is only open for nine days every nine years. Unfortunately, in the last minutes before it closes in 1983, the baby prince of the Island is kidnapped by a nasty woman named Trottle. For nine long years, the king and queen pine and plan for his rescue. Which of the magical creatures of their land should be sent to rescue their lost child? Finally, the team is chosen: Cor, an ancient wizard; Gurkie, a lovable agricultural fairy; Hans, a one-eyed giant; and Odge, a resourceful young hag. Guided by the ghosts who guard our end of the portal (called a gump), the team sets out to rescue little Raymond Trottle. While they are charmed by the kitchen boy, Ben, they are horrified by the piggish Raymond, who does not cooperate with their plans. The plucky group, with the help of Ben and the few magical creatures they find in London, tries to cajole and then, desperate, tries to steal Raymond before the gump closes. Ibbotson's lively fantasy is full of fun with its Dahl-like, but less mean-spirited, humor. Children will enjoy the magical creatures, including the cuddly mistmakers who emit fog when they hear music. The author's odd characters are endearing‘poor Odge is something of a failure as a hag, but a rousing success as a friend. Certainly readers won't be surprised to discover that kindly Ben is the lost prince, but they will be delighted by the adventure.‘Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

This modern-day fairy tale featuring a group of endearing mythical creatures (and some less palatable Brits) follows four dwellers of a magical island journeying to London in search of their kidnapped prince. The appointed rescuers‘Cornelius the Wizard (who "could divide twenty-three-thousand-seven-hundred-and-forty-one by six-and-three-quarters in the time it took a cat to sneeze"); Hans, a one-eyed giant ogre; Gurkintrude, an "agricultural" fairy or "growth goddess"; and Odge, a half-grown hag‘have only nine days to complete their mission. After that, the hidden door to their world (located on Platform 13 inside a subway station) will be closed for another nine years. It will take readers less time than the quartet of seekers to realize a mix-up in the prince's true identity. The boy with royal blood is not the obnoxious, portly Raymond Trottle, but rather the Trottles' lowly (and lovable) servant, Ben. While predictability hampers the story's suspense, Ibbotson's dry wit, well-drawn characters and the unraveling-to-tying-up of loose threads provide plenty of amusement. This is light weight entertainment for fantasy buffs. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

A complicated fantasy predicates an Atlantis-like island ruled by a beloved monarchy and populated by various magical creatures. When the island's baby prince is kidnapped, a troupe of the magical creatures attempts to rescue him. The star of the show is the young hag, Odge Gribble, whose ingenuity wins out in the end. Amusing at times but very British and a trifle long. From HORN BOOK Fall 1998, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Old magic breaks loose in modern London to rescue a kidnapped prince in this droll, if formulaic, farce from Ibbotson. When wealthy Larina Trottle decides she wants a child, she snatches the first baby that comes along, leaving distraught royal parents on the other side of an ancient gate (Platform 13, in an old Tube station) that opens once every nine years. Nine years later, through the gate comes a rescue party: an invisible giant, a very old wizard, a fairy, and a young hag-in-training, Odge Gribble. But Raymond Trottle is a fat, selfish, greedy, stupid, thoroughly spoiled child. Reluctantly, with the help of the Trottles' thoroughly likable kitchen boy Ben, the rescuers set about their task, without reckoning just how difficult crafty Larina is going to make it. Ibbotson strews her tale with magic creatures and stock villains, including bodyguard/assassin ""Soft Parts"" Doreen, armed with deadly knitting needles, a terrible lake monster who gives a delicious new meaning to the term ""clear skin,"" and a band of harpies, horrible to behold in pearls, tight perms, and stretch tops. At the very last moment comes the revelation that Ben, not Raymond, is the true prince, and Odge engineers the happy reunion. With scrawled, comic black-and-white drawings by Porter, it's not exactly Roald Dahl, but Ibbotson is at least a distant cousin. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. What's a "gump," you ask? Why, it's a grassy bump that's actually a hidden door. Every nine years it opens--for nine days--to reveal a tunnel to another world, a magical island "so beautiful that it [takes] the breath away." Every country has a gump, it seems; Great Britain's is located under platform 13 in an abandoned railway station near the River Thames. Nine years before this story starts, the island's baby prince had been kidnapped when, on a lark, his nurses took him through the tunnel to London. Now it's time to bring him back. Entrusted with this responsibility is an unlikely group of rescuers: an ancient wizard, a fey, a yodeling ogre, and a very young hag named Odge. What chance do they have against the vast wealth and resources of the kidnapper, Mrs. Trottle, whose favorite perfume is called Maneater? Not much, frankly, especially since they're pledged not to use magic. But, then, if it were an even match, there wouldn't be much of a story. As it is, the plotting is occasionally a bit perfunctory--readers will spot a narrative-driving case of mistaken identity almost immediately--but fantasy lovers will probably excuse that for the sake of the author's ironic wit and her skill at introducing an amazing variety of supernatural, folkloric, and imagined entities who never fail to excite the readers' imagination and sympathy (and adults will enjoy meeting a certain former prime minister thinly disguised as an especially brisk Harpy with a handbag!). --Michael Cart