The Alice-Miranda Books

Back in April / May, I had the utmost pleasure to review the first two books in the Alice-Miranda series. These books by Australian author Jacqueline Harvey are very lovely stories all about the eponymous Alice-Miranda and her adventures.

In the review of the second book, I mentioned that I planned to pass these on to a daughter of a friend of mine. She’s already exhausted St Claire’s and Malory Towers so I couldn’t imagine a better home for the first two Alice-Miranda books.

And here’s what she thought (plus a little post-script from her Mum!)

“Dear Jacqueline  Harvey, your Alice-Miranda books are great! It was so exciting when Auntie Gee got kidnapped in Alice Miranda on Holiday.  I was also  curious to know why Miss Grimm was so angry and never came out of her office in Alice-Miranda at School.  From Daisy P aged 7″

Mum – She can’t wait for the next one!!

Thanks Daisy P! It’s another thumbs up for Alice-Miranda! :-D

Alice-Miranda On Holiday : Jacqueline Harvey

Alice Miranda On HolidayAlice Miranda On Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second in the Alice-Miranda series, Alice-Miranda on Holiday is (as the title suggests) focused on Alice-Miranda’s holiday from school. She’s back home at her beautiful house Highton Hall, full of luscious meals and exciting high-jinks, and (hurrah!) there’s skullduggery afoot!

If you’ve read the first in the series (which I reviewed here,you should have a good idea of what to expect. If this is your first exposure to Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones, you’re in for a treat. She’s a bright, funny Opal Moonbaby meets Pippi Longstocking meets Eloise-esque heroine of only seven and a half years old.

In Alice-Miranda On Holiday, Harvey takes the sensible direction of introducing and fleshing out a plethora of supporting casts. It’s useful to have a list of who’s who in the back pages (although I do wonder if it might be more useful to have this in the front as unless you’ve read these books before, you discover the cast-list after you’ve finished the book rather than using it to help you keep track throughout).

Harvey’s got a bright, fresh style of writing these books and it’s obvious that she’s found her groove. Alice-Miranda On Holiday is a rollicking modern Enid Blyton type story full of adults being silly (silly adults!), kids eating glorious sounding meals, and (metaphorical) red herrings sprinkled liberally throughout it to keep you guessing as to what’s going on. These are fun, fun books and I’m officially a fan.

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Alice-Miranda At School : Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda at SchoolAlice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones’ first term at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy For Proper Young Ladies and it’s all a little bit peculiar. The headmistress hasn’t been seen for ten years, there’s no flowers in the garden, and the staff are on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And, when Alice-Miranda is set a series of impossible tasks that she must pass in order to stay in school, it becomes very clear that there’s something a bit rotten in the state of Denmark and it’s up to Alice-Miranda to discover what.

I’m a big fan of school stories so I was excited to discover the Alice-Miranda books. It’s written by an australian author – Jacqueline Harvey – and is the first of a contracted ten book series (the next four are already available).

School stories are, I think, a bit of a difficult genre to write these days. They’re a little bit archaic and either require a bit of JK Rowling up (chuck in a load of spells and emphasise the fantastical nature of the story) or a bit of Jacqueline Wilson type social commentary (emphasis very much on the ‘reality’ of life for these children caught in this unreal state).

There is a third option however: you can embrace the school story and write something that is very much aware of what it is. This is Alice-Miranda. I loved the self-aware nature of this book; how the headmistress was An Ogre With A Secret, how the Bad Tempered Girl Was Really A Good Egg, and how the cook Baked Luscious Cakes. Alice-Miranda is most unapologetic in what it is and I did love it for this.

Harvey writes with a fast, breezy style that I think would work well with the nines and under. Alice-Miranda at School is 261 pages and has 40 chapters which makes for a swift, and achievable read. It’s also very nicely structured and Harvey has several of her chapters follow a similar pattern (ie: encounter, resolution, coda) which introduces a strong rhythm into the book. I’d imagine this might be a book that could work very nicely into being read aloud.

Alice-Miranda herself is lovely. And she does make you smile. I loved how she was very much herself throughout and, even though the Alice-Miranda version of ‘herself’ is rather extraordinary, enjoyed the positive message this would send to a reader.

I always think it’s good if, when reading a book, I know exactly who I’d give this to. And with Alice-Miranda, I knew from day one. It’s going to a girl who’s exhausted the Malory Towers and St Clare’s books – and is boarding school obsessed.

And,  just to clarify, that girl is not me :D

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