Title: Eliza Vanda’s Button Box
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 5th May 2021
Synopsis: From the author of the award-winning His Name was Walter comes another magical mystery story that will delight Emily Rodda fans.
Buttons three, attend to me!
Take me where I want to be!
No one saw Eliza Vanda arrive in Tidgy Bay that rainy winter afternoon. The sign advertising ‘Cabins for Rent’ was almost hidden by a pile of builder’s rubble, but Eliza Vanda didn’t seem at all put out by the mess.
‘This is a nice little pocket,’ she said. ‘It should suit us very well.’
Life hasn’t been much fun for Milly Dynes lately. There seem to be problems everywhere she looks. She’s always loved her home in Tidgy Bay, but at the moment she wishes she was somewhere -anywhere – else.
Then Eliza Vanda turns up-and magic comes with her …
A sparkling new fantasy adventure from multi-award-winning author Emily Rodda.
AWARDS FOR HIS NAME WAS WALTER:
Winner – 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (Children’s Literature)
Winner – 2019 Australian Book Design Awards (Children’s Fiction Book)
Winner – 2019 CBCA Book of the Year Awards (Younger Readers)
Shortlisted – 2019 Davitt Awards (Children’s)
Shortlisted – 2019 QLD Literary Awards (Griffith University Children’s Book Award)
Shortlisted – 2018 Aurealis Awards (Best Young Adult Novel)
Emily Rodda is back! She’s come out with yet another fabulous middle grade book filled with family, magic and a touch of the wonder that we get from Mary Poppins and the Narnia series and many other portal stories that somehow transport the characters and the reader beyond their known world, and into one of wonder and joy, magic and mystery. In her latest, she plonks us down in Tidgy Bay with Milly Dynes, whose life is about to change when her stepmother and new sister arrive home and she has to change rooms, as well as moving to high school soon. But when Eliza Vanda arrives in Tidgy Bay under a cloak of secrecy and wonder, Milly’s imagination is captured by a special button box as she helps Eliza create a fabulous wedding dress. In an instant, Milly is whisked away to different pockets and lands with the help of buttons, accompanied by Victor to search for the things Eliza needs – but will Milly and Victor find more than they bargained for, and will they be called upon to do more than they have been asked to do?
This novel has the feeling of a classic children’s adventure story that takes place between our world and a magical world, and that explores the archetypes of fairy tales and fairy tale characters, but then spins these around and turns them right on their head to create a unique and fabulous story that captures the imagination, and fills the reader with a sense of wonder as Milly and Victor go on their journey, and help people throughout the novel, sometimes in unexpected ways. The journey in this book is one of magic and wonder, fuelled by buttons and the phrase:
Buttons three, attend to me!
Take me where I want to be.
This little spell is as memorable and unique as stepping through a wardrobe, chucking Floo powder into a fire, or falling down a rabbit hole. It captures the imagination and has a beautiful rhyme that evokes a sense of wonder and whimsy. I loved the way Milly travelled in this book, and her friendship with EV. It was truly magical and one could feel truly at home with EV and Milly, both when travelling and in Tidgy Bay and the worlds that EV sent them to. I fell in love with this book from page one, with its villains in each world, the burgeoning friendship between EV and Milly, and the sense that EV was there to help Milly prepare for her next stage in life – much like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, who appear when you need them, but do not want them, and leave when you want them to stay, but no longer need them. I could definitely feel this as I read, feeling the sense of a crossroads in life, where we are faced with choices and changes. We face these crossroads at all times throughout our lives, yet perhaps we face some of the biggest ones when we are on the cusp of becoming a pre-teen, a teen and as we finish high school. As Milly stands on the precipice of starting high school, she faces many changes in her life. but she’s also a problem solver – and as she travels through the worlds that EV sends her to, she grows and discovers the talents she has that will serve her well in the coming years, and as she learns to cope with the changes and grows up.
Emily Vanda’s Button Box is a beautifully written and designed book – just picking it up evokes a sense of wonder with its beautiful pink and green embossed cover, and the lively cat that seeks to find out what is going on with EV, Milly and Victor. The beauty in this book is in it’s in the story and its characters, and the beautiful prose that almost feels like poetry. The story floats the reader through the worlds, and the fantastic poetical and lyrical story that lifts the reader up and lightens up the world, if only for a little while. I loved this book, and I think it is one that I will be going back to read, especially at times of upheaval and uncertainty, because even though Milly faces these, there is a sense that she will find a way to resolve her feelings and come to terms with the changes – even if they are hard and painful, this book shows that there are ways to cope with tragic or uncertain times in our lives, and that there will always be those people in our lives who can help us through.
Another excellent book by Emily Rodda.