[Fidge finds herself in a land of toys]
The train hurtled past, puffing neat little balls of smoke. Its engine was a glossy black and the carriages bottle green, with brass fittings. The whole thing shone as if it had been painted and polished ten minutes before, but it wasn’t the newness of the train that left Fidge staring; it was the glimpse of the passengers. They’d sped by too fast for her to see them properly, but the impression she had was of . . . greyness. Total greyness, without a single speck of colour.
[She tries to work out the best thing to do]
‘Fact,’ she said, out loud. ‘I’m in the Land of Wimbley Woos.’ It was reassuring to hear her own voice, even if it wasn’t quite as firm as usual. ‘Fact: Yellows are timid, Blues arestrong and Greys are wise and rarely wrong. Fact: Green are daring, Pink give cuddles, Orange are silly and get in muddles. Fact: Purple Wimblies understand the past and future of their land. Fact: something’s gone wrong here and I need to free the Pink and get the whole thing sorted out as quickly as possible.
Because I have to get home and see my sister…’
commentary: I want my good friend Lissa Evans to write another book for adults (to go with Crooked Heart, and Their Finest Hour and a Half – film coming soon – and Spencer’s List) but until she does I can keep going with this, her latest children’s book, which, I have to admit, is a delight.
Fidge has a little sister, Minnie, who is in hospital. During a storm, Fidge gets lost in a world that is made up of Minnie’s favourite book, the Wimbley Woos, and Minnie’s favourite toys, including the eponymous Wed Wabbit. (It sometimes seems she may be inside Minnie’s mind, as Minnie lies unconscious.) She is accompanied by her least favourite cousin, Graham, who is scared of everything, and she needs to sort out the situation and get out safely, and she must find Wed Wabbit to take to hospital for Minnie. But that’s not going to be easy – there are some dark goings-on in the land of Wimbley Woos, and Wed Wabbit is far from the soppy creature he sounds. He is more of a dictator, as it happens.
There are clues and puzzles, and Fidge, realizing that the situation is dire, has to come up with a plan to defeat Wabbit and his allies the Blues. Graham turns out to be more use than seemed likely, and some of the other toys pitch in. Finest of them all is Ella the Elephant, a Life Coach who must have been an actress first, and whose every (helpful and useful) remark is couched in terms of the utmost luvviedom and spiritual mumbo jumbo. She is a superstar, and should have her own series.
‘Thank you for everything!’ she heard Ella calling to the Purples. ‘Marvellous work. A five-star performance! The reviews will be fabulous!’
…Behind her, she could hear Ella panting. ‘Would you mind awfully, darlings, if we slowed down just a tiny bit? I’ve not been able to get to the gym for a while – terribly, terribly busy at work.’
Ahead of them, the huge gate swung open, and they were marched through into a courtyard, its walls hung with flaming torches. Shadows leaped and shrank across the stones.
The book is very funny throughout – I loved this description of Graham:
‘Gorgeous lighting,’ said Ella, breathing heavily. ‘Superdramatic.’
He was large and pale, like a plant that has been heavily watered, but kept in the dark.But it is also very tense, considering it is set in a version of toyland, and I am several multiples of the age of the target audience. There is a proper quest, danger along the way, our heroes and heroines are captured and mistreated… But (spoiler) all will end happily. There is a very funny running joke about the rather useless Pinks who just want to hug all the time, and this is used to perfect effect at the end.
Rabbit (not really sinister enough… ) from a 1920s book explaining how to draw to young people.
Picture of toy train set taken in a Prague Museum by Leif Jørgensen and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.