‘Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest, Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling.’
Title: Beyond Platform 13
Author: Sibéal Pounder (@sibealpounder)
Cover illustrator: Beatriz Castro
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 3rd October
Series status: N/A
Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.
1. Magic ✨
2. Gump 🚪
3. Mist 🌁
The island of Mist is under siege and Prince Ben and his best friend Odge Gribble – a hag – are in hiding. Desperate to find out why the island’s protective mist is disappearing, Odge travels through an enchanted gump to Vienna, in search of a mistmaker expert.
But instead Odge finds Lina, a nine-year-old girl looking for adventure. With the help of friends old and new and some very interesting magic, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist, before they lose their beloved island completely.
Review: With Beyond Platform 13, a new and exciting novel from Sibéal Pounder – author of the very successful Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series – we gladly return to Eva Ibbotson’s magical and much-loved world of The Secret of Platform 13, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Sibeal starts this story at the Island of Mist, where magical creatures (including hags and harpies) live under the cover of a layer of mist produced by white furry creatures, not too dissimilar to Furbys, called mistmakers.
Often coined as the inspiration behind Harry Potter, it is a delight to enter the portal under Platform 13 at King’s Cross Station – or gump to be more accurate – that opens just once every nine years for nine days.
“That’s the thing about magic – it’s only real if you believe in it.”
However, the island is under threat from evil harpies. And so travelling through the gump to Vienna, a young hag who goes by the name of Odge Gribble chances upon a mistmaker expert or so she thinks… but it’s just a nine-year-old girl who’s been caught up in Odge’s path of fighting the resistance and lucky for Odge, Lina is a believer in every kind of magic going.
Scared they’ll lose their beloved island completely, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist. Can they save it before it’s too late? What danger will the two encounter on this adventure? Will Lina’s mistaken mistmaker identity be revealed…?
Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest. Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to the late, great Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling that is multi-layered, well-paced, fabulously-drawn and well-written; I can not recommend it highly enough to lovers of magic and mystery. This could have the effect on children that the original had and although this can be read as a stand-alone story, I would very much encourage you to seek out Eva’s original classic, The Secret of Platform 13, to appreciate the full wonder of this magical, imaginative world.
Author Q & A: Beyond Platform 13
with Sibéal Pounder
Beyond Platform 13 (5)
At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Beyond Platform 13?
1. Ghostly 🐀
2. Magical 🏝️
3. Mysterious ☁️
What was the most enjoyable part of writing Beyond Platform 13?
I think the most enjoyable part was being back in a world that I loved so much as a child. I read The Secret of Platform 13 when I was around 9 years old, so to be back and writing the characters was incredibly surreal and magical.
I read recently an article that described you as Eva Ibbotson’s biggest fan which is wonderful. Can you describe her influence on you as a writer, on writing Beyond Platform 13 and why you think her books should be a part of every school?
I find her work so very inspiring. I love how she played around with stereotypical fantasy characters. Odge Gribble, for example, in The Secret of Platform 13 is a hag but she looks like an ordinary girl. She dreams of having lots of warts and impressive ear hair like her sisters. I love that play on the classic hag and it influenced how I played around with the concept of witches and mermaids in the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series.
Beyond Platform 13 is inspired by The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson but which other books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write it?
I started with the research and I hunted down every interview – printed and audio – with Eva that I could find. I wanted to first see if I could find clues as to where she would take the story. The most important thing to me was that the heart of the book felt like an Eva book, and I didn’t want to take the characters or the world in a direction she wouldn’t. I found some useful things that helped guide me. For example, in the book she mentions that every country has a gump (a portal to the secret island), yet we only visit the one on Platform 13 in Kings Cross. That seemed like a solid world building mechanism – a way of establishing a larger framework so if she were to return to the world there would be more to see.
I also went backwards to go forwards and looked at what could’ve inspired various elements and characters – from her life experiences to the people she knew. My favourite find was the similarities between the way she described the character Ben and how she described her husband, Alan Ibbotson – kind, sweet, someone who cared for animals and was fascinated by the natural world. In the book Ben makes a den for the mistmaker (a strange magical creature in the story) and hides it under his bed. In an interview she says, when they first met, her husband made an ant farm and kept it hidden under his bed. I loved that parallel, and things like that were enough for me to believe that she would see Ben as a good-to-his-bones character, and that helped steer how I developed him. Ben was interesting because he is a prince with power on the island so he could be someone to potentially corrupt, but the similarities with Alan Ibbotson gave me enough reason to believe Eva would never do that. So that was how I tried to work, to keep the heart of it hers as much as possible.
I tried to draw as much inspiration from Eva’s world as I could, even the things that seem random have reasoning behind them. For example, there is a new hag character called Netty, which is a nod to Newcastle slang (Eva lived in Newcastle). Apparently it’s slang for toilet, and I thought that was perfect for a hag! Eva said whenever she was stuck when writing she would add an aunt. So there is a moment when a character is physically stuck and a group of ghostly aunts appear to help.
If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Beyond Platform 13, and/or The Secret of Platform 13, who would it be and why?
I think I’m probably most like Hans – very well meaning but prone to mistakes! Also, if my name were Hans, I too would open a cheese shop called Hans-ome Cheeses.
Reading and Writing (4)
What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?
I loved writing at school and making up crazy stories and characters. I’ve always loved writing, but I didn’t ever imagine I could be an author. I didn’t meet an author when I was little and it wasn’t until I was much older that I realised it was something people do! I worked as a journalist for years before becoming a children’s author, so I always gravitated towards writing, but fiction has my heart – I just love the endless possibilities of it.
Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
That’s a really great question! It’s not something I’ve ever thought about before… I think every part of the process has energising and exhausting parts. Drafting is so energising, creating everything from scratch and watching all your ideas come alive on the page. But I also find it exhausting around halfway through when I start to doubt it all. And editing is very energising – solving plot problems and fitting all the pieces of the puzzle back together in a more satisfying way, but it’s also exhausting when things aren’t working and it feels like you’ll never find a solution. So in short, I find all parts energising and exhausting in equal measure – I’m not sure you can have one without the other.
When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
This is something I think about a lot. I think at one point I thought all authors were dead – that the books had all been written. I didn’t really have a concept of an author and that people sat around writing the books when I was very young. No authors ever visited our school (although I do remember a bus full of books visiting once and it has stuck with me forever).
Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your books, especially Beyond Platform 13, or any others that you have read and would recommend?
I would recommend ALL of Eva Ibbotson’s books. She wrote across age ranges and covered everything from fantasy humour to adult romance. She was so talented and I think all her books are wonderful (my top recommendations would be The Secret of Platform 13, Dial a Ghost and Journey to the River Sea).
For fantasy, I’d highly recommend Abi Elphinstone, PG Bell, Claire Fayers, Jessica Townsend, Sophie Anderson… I could go on and on – you’re right, it is such a golden age for children’s books right now!
Beyond Platform 13 and Teaching (3)
If you were to ‘pitch’ Beyond Platform 13 in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?
Return to Eva Ibbotson’s much-loved classic and find out what happens when the gump opens again…
Could you suggest ways in which Beyond Platform 13 or The Secret to Platform 13 could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?
I found it was a really interesting exercise to return to a world that was already set up and waiting – the characters had been defined, the world had been built. It has definitely helped my writing, and I think a really fun exercise would be to have the children pick their favourite character (can be from any book they like) and write a short sequel story. They’ll need to establish things like when they are going to return – is it 1, 10, 50, 100 years later – and how the characters have changed (and therefore what the characters were like before), they will have to decide what other characters to bring back and how they might have changed, what other elements of the story (objects, for example) they can bring back to work with the plot and crucially, what the character wants now. I do this exercise in my school events for Platform 13 and it’s really interesting to see how writing a sequel for a favourite character can really help with their creative writing. Sometimes playing in another author’s world is great practice for building your own.
For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?
They can contact me at HelloRitzyCity@gmail.com or email@example.com
Two more before you go (2)!
What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
Q: What do you think are the most bafflingly named food brands? A: Wimpy and Skips.
Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
I have a cat assistant called Galligan and I’m pretty convinced she has the longest whiskers in the world. I measured them and compared them against the current Guinness Book of World Records holder and Galligan’s are longer! I’m debating whether or not to enter her though, as I’m not sure how she’d deal with fame.
One last one… (1)!
Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?
Yes please. I would love to know how they feel about Skype school visits? Do they think the children get much out of them and does it have as much of an impact as an author being there in person? I’m always interested in digital solutions when being there in person isn’t possible for whatever reason, but very interested in how much children get out of Skype visits.
Big thanks to Sibéal, Clare and all the team at Macmillan for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Beyond Platform 13 blog tour and for sending me an advance copy and proof copy of the book.
Extra big thanks to Sibéal for being such a brilliant interviewee with her insightful answers to these questions, I really loved learning more about her inspirations and admiration of Eva Ibbotson.
On 15th October 2019, there is a very special ‘Returning to Other Authors’ Worlds’ events organised at Waterstones Piccadilly, starring Sibeal Pounder, Amy Wilson, Hilary McKay and Robin Stevens.
You can see more and book your ticket here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/returning-to-other-worlds-with-sib-al-pounder-hilary-mckay-amy-wilson-and-robin-stevens/london-piccadilly