From One Dog and His Boy, it seems very obvious that Ibbotson was indeed a master of children's storytelling. I don't specify "children's" to in any way belittle her writing - I think when you write for children in the best way, you have created something that does not speak down to children but is still most definitely created with them in mind. With the dreams and beliefs that you hold as a child at the forefront.
This story has at its centre a young boy called Hal, who lives a privileged life with all the toys and gadgets he could ever want. With a wealthy businessman for a father and a prim shopaholic for a mother, the only thing Hal yearns for is a dog. But he has never been allowed one. In a cruelly thoughtless move, his parents rent him a dog for the weekend, but let Hal believe it's for life. Hal and the dog he rents, Fleck, find a strong connection straight away and their separation is heart breaking. Back at Easy Pets, the dog rental agency, there are a whole room of cell mates to Fleck who have their own tragic stories that have led them to their ownerless existence. The dogs' back stories were revealed in effortlessly natural narration, with delightful details set up for later heart wrenching moments. A whole host of other characters come into the story and every one is just perfectly woven in to create a classic adventure tale with a really simple but lovely emotional core. This really was pretty much perfect - funny, sad, emotional, exciting and filled with a kind of magic that needs no wands or sorcery.
I will place this book very high up on my recommendation list for any children aged 9 and up, and any adult with a young soul!
One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson is out now in hardback, and will be released in paperback in March 2012. It is long listed for the Carnegie Medal 2012.