The Stolen Songbird
Judith Eagle is well established as a writer of middle grade adventures with a classic feel, and fans will be delighted with her excellent fourth novel, The Stolen Songbird. The songbird of the title is a painting, one of a series of three whose theft is at the centre of this lively tale. Part heist, part family mystery, The Stolen Songbird bounds along with great verve, plenty of twists, but also a lot of heart and compassion.
Caro, lives with her two mothers in a pub in Waterloo, but when one disappears and one has to leave, she is sent to stay in Hampstead with curmudgeonly old Great-aunt Mary (rechristened Gam by Caro). Her beloved rabbit, His Nibs, is already a stowaway, Gam having it made it very clear that he is not welcome, but Caro is shocked to open her suitcase to find another stowaway, a small but clearly very valuable painting. From now until the very satisfying ending, Caro’s fate is linked to the stolen songbird.
It's always a challenge to set a book firmly in its own time – 1959 in this case – while making it accessible to modern readers, but Eagle does this very well, partly by giving Caro an unconventional background which helps to make the story timeless. Caro, a talented gymnast, is a strong heroine, backed up by her friend Horace, an aspiring fashion designer from Barbados, and frightened little Albie, who also lives with Gam. There are interesting adult characters, too, including some genuinely creepy villains.
The Stolen Songbird is a fast-paced, immersive read. I read it in one sitting, and am confident that it will find many very satisfied readers.