Monday, September 04, 2006

Review: The Strictest School in the World

I have to say upfront that The Strictest School in the World is my favorite type of children's novel. It's a Middle Grade adventure story involving a daring girl, a crazy aunt, a Dickensian boarding school, and flying machines. What more could you want? Written by Howard Whitehouse and
illustrated by Bill Slavin, The Strictest School in the World is well written fun for the 9-13-year-old reader.

Emmaline Cayley dreams of flying. Her great-great-uncle was Sir George Cayley, a historical figure and pioneer in aviation, and she uses his plans to design flying machines. Her only problem is that she herself is afraid to fly.

When Emmaline is fourteen, she is sent by her clueless parents from India to England to attend St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. The only benefit to this arrangement is that she has the opportunity to stay with her slightly-unhinged Aunt Lucy before the term starts. There she meets "Rubberbones" or "Rab," a small boy who never hurts himself when he falls. Rather, he bounces on impact. Emmaline has found her pilot and, in her aunt, a source of funding for her inventions.

When Emmaline is sent to school, all inventing has to stop. Instead, she's a student at a the "strictest school in the world." The girls live in fear, the matron is a monster, and a couple of "birds" patrol the ground. Soon a rescue operation is under way to save Emmaline from St. Grimelda's.

The Strictest School in the World is funny, smart, and exciting. Emmaline is a wonderful character, a girl scientist who is unflinching in the face of danger. Give this one to a Middle Grade reader today!