London’s King’s Cross Station has many secrets, but its best kept secret lies behind Platform 13: a magical entrance to another world that only opens for nine days once every nine years. The last time the portal opened, the baby Prince of the magical Island was kidnapped by a wicked, selfish woman called Mrs. Trottle who was unable to have children of her own. The portal closed before the Prince could be rescued. Now, nine years later, a group of unlikely heroes (a giant, a wizard, a fey, and a young hag named Odge) travel into the human world to find the young Prince and bring him home. Odge and her companions are quite optimistic about their chances of returning with the Prince, but when they find “Raymond Trottle,” they are dismayed to discover that he is a spoiled, rotten, horrible boy and not the sort of prince they want at all. Still, for the sake of the King and the Queen, they are determined to bring him home, and so they enlist the help of a servant boy, Ben, as they try to convince Raymond to return to their magic world.
The Secret of Platform 13 is a wonderfully written magical tale that elementary-age fantasy readers will definitely enjoy. It is one of my favorite fantasy books for that age group. Read-alikes include most other books by Eva Ibbotson (Dial-a-Ghost, Island of the Aunts, etc.), books by Roald Dahl (Matilda, The Witches, The Twits, etc.), the early Harry Potters (1-3), The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Magyk by Angie Sage, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci books (Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, etc.).