The Secret of Platform 13

by Eva Ibbotson

Paperback, 1999



Local notes

PB Ibb




Puffin Books (1999), Edition: Reprint, 231 pages


Odge Gribble, a young hag, accompanies an old wizard, a gentle fey, and a giant ogre on their mission through a magical tunnel from their Island to London to rescue their King and Queen's son who had been stolen as an infant.



Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 2001)
Virginia Readers' Choice (Winner — 2002)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — 2000)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

231 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member debnance
Three nursemaids venture off their magical island during the once-every-nine-years open window between the island and the real world. In the process, their charge, the baby prince of the king and queen of the island, is stolen by an evil woman desperately longing for a child. The king and queen are
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bereft. Finally, nine years pass and the royal couple sends an entourage of magical beings to find and rescue the lost prince.
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LibraryThing member nawnie
A great fantasy book , with four interesting heroes, a magic island and a stolen prince! This is the perfect book to help get children interested in reading and loving what they read! It will encourage imagination and keep kids coming back for more!
LibraryThing member atimco
The Secret of Platform 13 is my first Eva Ibbotson book, but it won't be my last. Every nine years, England's gump (or passageway) to magical Avalon, the Island, opens for nine days — and nine days only. During one such Opening, the Island's baby prince is kidnapped by the most unlikely person
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imaginable, a rich and selfish woman who then learns she is expecting a baby herself. Nine years later when a rescue mission can finally be mounted, the rescuers’ best-laid plans go awry when the prince turns out to be a spoiled and nasty boy who doesn’t want to be rescued.

Elements of this story will be very familiar to fans of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter... two worlds coexisting in the heart of England, one ordinary, one magical and secret. A young boy unaware of his connections to the magical world, treated as a servant in a house where he is unwelcome (right down to the cupboard bedroom). Or the foolish mother who, with her spoiled, overweight son, goes into hiding once the emissaries of the magical world disrupt their predictable lives. An ordinary-world train station platform that serves as a portal to the magical place beyond. The thing is, Ibbotson was there first; The Secret of Platform 13 was published in 1994, three years before the first HP book appeared. Hmm.

Ibbotson's prose is more whimsical and artistic than Rowling's, which I've never been able to praise as more than serviceable. Her style is occasionally reminiscent of C. S. Lewis's familiar voice, adding just the inconsequential details and touch of humor that make the story come alive. The descriptions of the nastier fairy-tale characters (harpies and brollachans and such) reminded me forcibly of Caspian's shock at discovering such creatures still existed in Narnia. And there were many other nods of a Narnian character. I felt right at home.

It's too bad that this fun little tale cannot be read without comparisons to its more famous Potter relative. I use Lewis’s criteria for good children’s books — that the best ones can be enjoyed by adults as well — and The Secret of Platform 13 is certainly of that company.
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LibraryThing member Runa
The Secret of Platform 13 is the book everyone reads once they've finished Harry Potter and are dying for more. I first read it in a 4th grade book club, complete with brownies and all, in which I thought it was a good read, but entirely too forgettable. I still do think that Which Witch? is
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Ibbotson's best work by far, but this story is an engaging one as well. I could go on and on with the plentiful and slightly obvious Harry Potter parallels, so I'll spare you for now. I recommend this quirky read for children, but with slight caution. The description gets heavy at times. There is almost no in-depth characterization, with a large cast of characters that can get confusing. Worst of all, though, is the extreme predictability. The other things are minor aspects, they are obstacles that are easy to get past. It's just slightly disappointing to see that what you thought would happen from the very begin, does end up happening, no twists or anything to make it even the slightest bit more interesting than you thought it would be. This isn't to say that it's not a good read, or a boring one, just that there are minor things that might get irritating.

Rating: 3.5/5
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LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
The Gump, hidden by Platform 13 from the old London railroad station, leads to the Island, an idyllic place where everyone is accepted, ghosts, hags, people, wizards and assorted others. It opens once every nine years to allow traversing back and forth between London and the Island.

When the
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Island's infant Prince is kidnapped while in the care of his three nurses during their quick sojourn to London, the King and Queen must wait nine years to get him back. This is the story and what a marvelous story it is. There's a reason Eva Ibbotson is such a renowned author.
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LibraryThing member hackmac
This book is uncannily similar to the Harry Potter books. Well, this one got publshed first, but I'm not implying anything, ok. As for the book itself, I liked it very much. The story and the characters are enchanting, and the book is well-written. I'd love to read more books by Ms. Ibbotson.
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
A world exists beyond ours and every nine years a portal opens under Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station. The last time it opened the prince was lost and now a wizard, an ogre, a fey and a young hag journey through to find him. Only when they find him he's horrible and they're not sure that they
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want to take him back.

It's sweet and fun and completely predictable, but still it's not a bad read. I absolutely adored the knitting-needle wielding bodyguard. Sweet.
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LibraryThing member FieryNight
Eva Ibbotson is one of the top writers, like, ever.
LibraryThing member lfae
Absolutely a joy to read in every way! And OMG how cute is the Mist Maker on the cover?! :D
LibraryThing member sisha
a very good book.Seems to have been the one that inspired Harry Potter series
LibraryThing member AshleyMiller
My sister-in-law bought a copy of The Secret of Platform 13 and recommended that I give it a try since I like fantasy stories. After reading the book I feel like any younger fantasy reader would really enjoy this book.

The book is meant for children between 9 and 12; however, I think it would be
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appropriate for even younger children. The story has a very simple plot with a few, easily predictable (for adults anyway) twists along the way. I loved the easy to read writing style and the dialogue between all the characters. There are also many funny parts to the story as well! Throughout the book there is only some minor violence. Someone has a gun and attempts to use it, and another person tries to kill someone with a super sharp knitting needle. However, no one dies, and these parts can be skipped or rewritten if necessary.

My favorite parts of the book were the characters and creatures. I loved how descriptive the author was with her characters and their personalities! Even the creatures had their own personalities! It is easy to fall in love with some of the characters (or just very much dislike them) and any child will be able to imagine what they are like based upon all the detail the author provides. Providing this amount of detail also made it easy for me to distinguish between the many characters in the story, which is a problem that many other children’s books have when there are more than two or three characters. Though there are many of the typical creatures in this story, the author adds some of her own as well, and they were a great addition to the story. The mistmakers are definitely my favorite!

The alternate world in which the prince is from sounds very interesting and I would have liked to know more about it. I wish more time would have been spent there. However, well over half of the story’s setting is in London. Despite this setback it was still a great story.

I’m having a hard time deciding how well I liked this novel. I think because it was incredibly simple and predictable I am having a hard time giving it 4 stars. I have read many other children’s books that are even more entertaining than this one. I liked the book, but I don’t know that I would ever read it again. However, I recommend reading it at least once. It’s a great book to read aloud to children before bed! I know I would have really enjoyed this when I was younger. If anything it is worth reading because of the characters! Loved them!

On another note….a lot of people seem to think this book is a lot like Harry Potter. I can see some similarities including the platform at a train station in London, the young orphan boy, and very minor similarities between some characters, but not much other than that. People say Rowling took tons of ideas from this book to create her Harry Potter series, but I don’t think she took as much as people believe. Only some very minor similarities. I think if younger children want to read Harry Potter and you don’t believe they are ready for that yet, then this would be a great book to give them.
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LibraryThing member mstrust
At three months old, the prince of the Island, a place inhabited by hags, ogres and fairies, was stolen from his nannies when the took him to visit London for the day. Years go by before a rescue attempt can be made by the Islanders, but when they finally meet the prince, they really don't want him
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I'm not sure if this was Ibbotson's first book or just the first published in the U.S., but it's fun. Full of ghosts and all kinds of monsters, plus a spoiled brat to hate.
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LibraryThing member lfae
Absolutely a joy to read in every way! And OMG how cute is the Mist Maker on the cover?! :D
LibraryThing member Bonnie_Ferrante
The reader may find the magical entrance on platform 13 in one of London’s busiest train stations to be an echo of the entrance to Hogwart’s, but that is where the similarity will end. This fun little book introduces the author to an original and fascinating magical kingdom with mermaids,
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ogres, mist makers, harpies, and wizards.

There are short periods of time every eight years where people from our kingdom can enter their kingdom and vice versa. The story begins when three reckless nannies inadvertently lose the infant prince in our world. Eight years later, a ragtag band of rescuers are sent to London to retrieve the now eight-year-old child. But nothing is as expected.

Eva Ibbotson does a wonderful job of endearing the characters to the reader. Even though it becomes fairly apparent that the twist in the story has twisted predictably again, the reader will not want to abandon the book. We must find out how things with finish.

This is the kind of book that a parent will enjoy sharing or a middle grade reader will enjoy on their own. A story of acceptance, love and courage with a happy ending.
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LibraryThing member johnwbeha
An absolute pleasure, reading this delightful book to my grand-daughter in a series of hefty chunks over the last two months. A great idea with dozens of wonderful characters covering the full range of magical species plus a few humans. It is clearly meant to be read aloud and I gave it my usual
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spirited approach. I urge this book on all adults over the age of five!
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LibraryThing member AlbaArango
Every nine years for nine days a secret doorway opens allowing humans entry to a magical island where humans, ogres, giants, and elves live together in harmony. Nine years ago, just before the portal closed, the island’s young prince was stolen. Anxiously, the queen and king have waited for the
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doorway to reopen. Now, as the ninth year approaches, the royals prepare a ragtag group of rescuers to find the prince and return him to the island. Together, a wizard, an ogre, a fey, and a young hag befriend a kindly kitchen boy names Ben (of unknown parentage…hmmm) as they attempt to lure the rich and insufferable prince (are we sure that’s the prince?) back to the island.

What I liked: the first few chapters feel a lot like the first Harry Potter book, although written years before (maybe J.K. Rowling got her inspiration here). The characters are so much fun and eccentric, and the island itself made me want to try and find it. It’s a fun, fast-paced story with a charming, feel-good energy.

What I didn’t like: not a whole lot to not like. My one critique would be that there was no real villain. Mrs. Trottle and her obnoxious son are terrible people, to be sure. But, there was no real sense of danger. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was a bit predictable, but again, not a bad thing. Overall, super cute.

4.5 out of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member CareBear36
This was a nice book for young readers. Ibbotson does an excellent job of creating good characters, an interesting plot, and a fascinating new world beyond our own. I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy read, but very interesting.
LibraryThing member ElDoradoHills
This is a fun fantasy tale for kids that I also enjoyed reading. Four unlikely heroes are charged with finding the kidnapped prince and returning him to his home, a magical island. ~Mel
LibraryThing member kslade
Good fantasy YA novel. First one I've read of this author, but one of my daughters once told me she was good. Has a bit of a Rowling flavor.

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