Jacqueline Harvey (author)
Random House, Australia: 2010; 290pp
Issues: family, friendship, gifted
Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones, that bright and bubbly little girl with the ‘can do' attitude, has completed (and survived) her first term at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Young Ladies. She is taking her friend (and the school's second-best tantrum thrower), Jacinta Headlington-Bear, home for the two week break. Expecting to spend her holiday as she usually does, playing with her friends and catching up with her busy parents and the staff who is her extended family, Alice-Miranda finds that all is not as it should be.
A cantankerous boy seems determined to cause trouble; a visiting movie star is behaving mysteriously; and a stranger in a fast, black car is snooping into the secrets of Highton Hall. It looks as if Alice-Miranda has a few things to sort out before she returns to school - not least of which is a cabbage-eating pony, a new name for Mrs Oliver's freeze-dried foods, and a few romances to organise!
It can be difficult to maintain pace, suspension of disbelief and character development over a series but Jacqueline Harvey's second installment of Alice-Miranda demonstrates considered and well-edited writing whilst projecting considerable energy and humour. In the best tradition of Pollyanna, Pippi Longstocking and Milly-Molly-Mandy, Alice-Miranda is a vivacious, independent, strong-willed child who believes the best about people - even if they can't see the best in themselves. It would have been all too easy for Alice-Miranda's bewitching ways to become too good to be true but Harvey avoids this. Characters affected by the little girl with the chocolate curls and huge eyes still retain very human remnants of their less kindly selves; Lucas responds more to Jacinta's feistiness than Alice-Miranda's charm; and the bad guys don't necessarily fold up and go away at her smile. A modern fairytale, Alice-Miranda At School is a delightful read, full of quirky characters and events, plenty of chuckle-worthy moments, and a wonderful sense of fun. Like Mrs Greening's ‘Heaven Cake', this is an absolutely delicious novel with that unidentifiable ingredient that has readers calling for more.
Highly recommended, especially for reading aloud.
Same series: Alice-Miranda At School (Bk1)
Like this? Try... Mary Poppins; Pippi Longstocking; Milly-Molly-Mandy; Alice in Wonderland
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