Island of the Aunts - Eva Ibbotson, Kevin Hawkes So far this is the 3rd story I’ve read by Eva Ibbotson, but unfortunately it’s my least favorite. It starts charmingly enough with the Aunts explaining that kidnapping is bad, but in this case it needs to be done. They need someone who will continue on with their legacy of caring for the magical and regular creatures that come seeking help to their far off island. Since neither of the three has children kidnapping is the only way. I know some reviewers had a problem with the kidnapping part, but I thought it was handled rather well and it did not bother me. What did bother me were some of the unexpected adult themes that were thrown in.

Looking at the book and from the description I was expecting a charming, fairy tale like story with maybe an environmental theme. The 3 quirky aunts, a mermaid and giant bird are featured on the cover, there are some funny illustrations inside and it’s what I know Ibbotson produces from reading some of her previous books. But to my surprise she threw in a mermaid with an abusive, cheating husband, another mermaid who was manhandled and possibly sexually assaulted by a Lord, villains who are strapping some serious guns and are implied to do drug runs and carry whores on their yacht and a bratty kid who smiles while “thinking about: all the people he hated lying dead in their own blood” (p. 61).
Not at all what I expected.

I don’t know what age group this is geared towards, but these themes didn’t seem appropriate for children’s literature especially one that won a literary award. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me being an “adult” or a “prude” even though I normally don’t let things like this bother me it did with this book. I felt like it could’ve been a better book if Ibbotson hadn’t thrown those things in and had concentrated more on the environmental theme of the book. Maybe children reading it will glaze over those details and get distracted by the funny illustrations, but for me I just found it jarring.

I did enjoy parts of the story though. The aunts for the most part were hilarious and quirky. I liked the illustrations. This one in particular had me laughing:

I also enjoyed the magical creatures…even the mermaids. I loved that the kraken makes an appearance and it’s not the typical mythological creature we are used to seeing. Overall, it is a creative story and I think any child or adult, for that matter, would love to visit the magical island. I’m only marking it two stars because the adult themes bothered and distracted me from the story.