For the last couple of days, I've been in a bit of a slump so I wanted to mix things up by reading a classic children's story. For years now, I've heard about The Secret of Platform 13 being a great children's classic so I went to my library and checked it out. This book is a great, fun read and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. However, I did have my issues with it.
Eva Ibbotson did an excellent job in writing an adventurously fun children's book. It has magic, it's fast-paced, the characters are entertaining, and it's a romp of a good time. Her writing style is easy to follow and she writes in a way that keeps the reader engaged. My issues with her writing has to do with her female characters, however. Most of them were just over the top, dramatic, whiny, and pathetic. And if they were strong, they were seen as ugly and monstrous. There were only three female characters I can think of that were decent. Those were Melisande, the nurse in the hospital, and the nun who runs the hospital. Unfortunately, all three of those characters are minor to only appear in a few pages out of the entire book.
I was highly disappointed with our main female lead, Odge. At first, I thought she was great. She was tough and took no-nonsense from anyone. She was brave and can be kind... if she stopped to think a little. But then, towards the end, she decided to mistreat herself in order to "show" a boy, the male lead named Ben, who "forgotten" about her that he was wrong. What? Why? Mutilating yourself is no way to "get revenge" on those who have harmed you. And the thing is, she is not the first character to do that. There are three nurses who have done that to themselves throughout the entire book because they "deserve punishment" for losing the prince. They did this to themselves for nine years and no one thought to stop them! The queen is no better! All she did was wail about the palace, nearly throwing herself out the windows because of how she was mourning her son. Meanwhile, her husband tried to console her because he's a "man" and can control his feelings properly. Give me a break.
Another problem I had with this book was a bit more subtle. For instance, I don't like the fat shaming throughout the book. Ibbotson described, during multiple occasions, how fat people were "disgusting" and "lazy." This perpetuates a harmful stereotype that anyone heavy is like that because they want to be and they should be ashamed for it. This is not something you should be teaching to kids. Some people are just bigger because of their genes. Sometimes it's health related. We do not know and to assume anything else is wrong and callous.
Also, there might be a bit of racism in this book. I say might because it's not overtly obvious. I shall explain. There's this one scene where the characters are in a restaurant and their little animal friend escaped from his box. The waiter tried to "catch" the animal by spraying a fire extinguisher at it, but he ended up foaming two Arabian men in fine clothing. Now, that doesn't seem to be too bad, right? But why did he have to get the only two people of color in the room and no one else? I don't know... that scene just didn't sit right with me.
All of this makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book. I did. Like I said, it was a fast and fun read. I think if you're looking for something to escape into for a couple of hours, this might be a book for you. But I just couldn't say I like this book without explaining its flaws first. If you like classic children's fantasy, if you like portal fantasy, if you like fast and fun reads, then give this a try. Just keep in mind everything I said about the book if you tend to not like reading about those topics. There's also quite a bit of violence and talk of blood so bear that in mind as well when recommending this book. Otherwise, I hope you have fun reading this book despite its flaws.