Annika has never had a birthday. Instead she celebrates her Found Day, the day a housemaid and a cook to three eccentric Viennese professors found her and took her home. There, Annika has made a happy life in the servants’ quarters, surrounded with friends, including the elderly woman next door who regales Annika with stories of her performing days and her countless admirers – especially the Russian count who gave her the legendary emerald, the Star of Kazan. And yet, Annika still dreams of finding her true mother. But when a glamorous stranger arrives claiming to be Annika’s mother, and whisks her away to a crumbling, spooky castle, Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in her new-found home…
Before my week long holiday began, I asked one of my grade seven students to recommend a book to read, and this is the title she pulled off the shelf – she was so excited for me to read it … and I’m glad I did.
The story is about Annika growing up among eccentric professors, the cook and the housemaid that find her, her friends, and the cast of characters from her neighborhood. While, Annika is happy with her life, she dreams of finding her mother. Everything changes when a sophisticated stranger arrives claiming to be Annika’s mother.
The language and story telling aspect of the novel is very much for young readers, so if you are not interested in that type of novel, this is not for you. However, the descriptions of the cities, landscape, and people are rich and vivid, the aspect I most enjoyed about this novel; especially the detailed descriptions of recipes and food preparation (Annika loves to cook!).
While the ending is predictable, the characters are very likable and we cheer for Annika – to find her mother, to solve the problems and mysteries she faces, and for her to find love – I enjoyed the novel, especially since Annika is a strong, independent, kind, caring young woman – a good role model for young girls. If you are looking for a novel for your 10-12 year old girl, Eva Ibbotson is the author for you.