The Star of Kazan6-9 years
The CILIP Carnegie Medal
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize Silver Award
Eva Ibbotson's hugely entertaining The Star of Kazan is a timeless classic for readers young and old.
In 1896, in a pilgrim church in the Alps, an abandoned baby girl is found by a cook and a housemaid. They take her home, and Annika grows up in the servants' quarters of a house belonging to three eccentric Viennese professors. She is happy there, but dreams of the day when her real mother will come to find her.
And sure enough, one day a glamorous stranger arrives at the door. After years of guilt and searching, Annika's mother has come to claim her daughter, who is in fact a Prussian aristocrat whose true home is a great castle. But at crumbling, spooky Spittal, Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in the lives of her new-found family . . .
This year (thanks to a recommendation by Ella Risbridger on Instagram, of all places) I have binged on Eva Ibbotson, not her children’s books, but her elegantly written, witty and well-observed if (after a few) formulaic fables of emigrées with beautiful burnished hair fallen on hard times. I read one after another, and rather feel your Christmas might be brightened by doing the same. So may I suggest A Song for Summer, followed by The Morning Gift, then The Secret Countess, A Company of Swans, Magic Flutes, Journey to the River Sea, and The Star of Kazan.
Nigella Lawson, The Sunday Times