Sophie Dahl, a veteran writer for adults, makes her welcome debut as a children’s author with this touching flight of fancy about two lonely souls—a little girl and an elderly woman—whose lives unexpectedly intersect in friendship. Mabel, a self-described adventurer, lives in her parents’ seaside hotel. She is certain that the new guest, a cranky “old, old, old” woman with “a cloud of feathers around her neck”—who calls Mabel “Dahlink” and holes up in her room with two dogs, two cats, a tortoise, piles of luggage, and “hundreds of trinkets”—must be an international jewel thief in hiding. Mabel’s efforts to prove her theory lead the pair to witty mutual understanding and magical adventures. (In Dahl’s enjoyably fresh descriptive language, an old-fashioned piece of candy from a tin is “sneezy with powdered sugar”’ Madame Badobedah’s voice is “a mixture of honey and sea stones…clanking together in a jar”; and outside are “Old-men trees, battered and bent by the wind and salt.”) Adults and older children will pick up on the subtle poignancy in what Madame Badobedah reveals about her past and in Mabel’s recognition of a kindred spirit. Artist Lauren O’Hara (Hortense and the Shadow) complements the book’s humor and emotional layers in her detailed watercolor illustrations.
Lynne Heffley ©2020 Parents’ Choice
A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat