I'm a big fan on Sally Gardner, author of I, Coriander and many other fantastic picture books and novels for children. Her books are inventive and often use fairy tale with powerful effect.
Operation Bunny starts with the discovery of a baby in a hatbox at Stansted Airport in Essex, just outside London. The little girl is named Emily Vole and is adopted by the narcissistic Daisy Dashwood and her husband Ronald. Emily is treated more like a doll than a child until Daisy has triplets of her own, at which point 5 year old Emily is moved from her opulent pink bedroom to sleep on the ironing board in the laundry room and forced to become a servant, looking after the house and babies.
Emily's life would be very miserable if she wasn't befriended by Miss String, the next door neighbour much despised by the Dashwoods, and her giant talking cat. Before long Emily discovers that she has inherited a magical shop and must defeat a fairy-hating witch whose magic lamp turns humans into pink bunnies, with the help from the cat, a fairy policeman and a grumpy detective called Buster.
In the press release from Orion, this enchanting book is compared to Roald Dahl. I'd say that apart from the Dashwoods, who are similar to the Wormwoods in Matilda, it reminds me more of Eva Ibbotson's books for younger readers. I loved it, and can't wait for the next one! It would be devoured by 7+ as an independent read, and 6+ as a bed time story.
My one quibble is that I felt the authorial disapproval of the Dashwoods very strongly (although Daisy does get to redeem herself) and it makes me a little uncomfortable in the way that Dahl's disapproval of "common" parents does. However, the Cinderella aspects of the story clearly need a weak father and unkind mother, and the pantomime tone makes it funny.
I am very grateful to the publishers for sending me this lovely book, but the review is my honest opinion.