• Happy birthday Michael Bond (Paddington Bear series).
  • It’s the birth date of Horatio Alger (1832–1899) Ragged Dick, Struggling Upward, and Albert Lamorisse (1922–1970) The Red Balloon.
  • Happy birthday to Britain’s daily paper, The Times, first published in 1785 as The Daily Universal Register.
  • In 1910, the first public radio broadcast was a transmission from the Metropolitan Opera House of a live performance. Therefore, it’s Public Radio Broadcasting Day. Read Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman.
  • Celebrate the bathtub icon on Rubber Ducky Day. Read It’s Useful to Have a Duck by Isol, and Ducky by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Wisniewski.

January has been designated National Book Blitz Month, which is a month-long campaign that aims to encourage reading. If you are hunting for an author who will make your worries disappear and who will allow you to cuddle up with one good book after another, then look no further than the British writer Eva Ibbotson. On the Almanac I’ve already talked about her masterpiece Journey to the River Sea and The Star of Kazan.

The Abominables remained unpublished during Ibbotson’s lifetime but has been brought into print by her son Toby and her long-time editor Marion Lloyd. It contains the whimsy and charm and, of course, the madcap nonsense that marks all her books. In a story that begins one hundred years ago, a young British girl, Agatha, on vacation in the Himalayas, gets abducted by a yeti, and carried back to his valley. She wastes no time in teaching him English, instructing his family in proper manners, and in making life more suitable for all of them in this isolated spot. The yetis turn out to be surprisingly gentle creatures, always speaking or apologizing to other forms of life. So harmonious is this environment that Agatha lives to be one hundred years old, and she watches as civilization slowly creeps into the remote area.

Then she does what seems imminently reasonable to any Englishwoman of quality: She makes arrangements to have the yetis taken in secret to her ancestral home in England, where they can enjoy freedom and isolation. Their journey begins in a cold storage truck with two children as guides—an amazing trek that takes them through deserts, mountains, bullfighting rings in Spain, and finally to England.

This entire trip has been worked out in believable detail. In one particularly funny chapter, the yetis help a group of clueless St. Bernards rescue a person in the Swiss mountains. They also save the life of a bull and perform other good deeds. But when they finally arrive at Agatha’s ancestral estate, things take a turn for the worse, because it has become the domain of big-game hunters.

As I read The Abominables, I was aware of the closeness in structure and concept of the books of Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson—except, of course, unlike Dahl, Ibbotson always had a cheery, optimistic, kind view of the world. Nothing bad ever happens for long in an Ibbotson book, so readers can relax, knowing that a happy outcome awaits the characters. And in The Abominables, as in her other books, Ibbotson whisks readers away to a world they long to stay in, at least for a few hundred pages.

As I look out over the snow-covered landscape, how I wish I could find a yeti. I think my dog, Lancelot, would find the ones Ibbotson conjures up absolutely perfect playmates. Well, I probably won’t locate one today, so I will have to settle in and read the book yet again. Happy Book Blitz Month.

Here’s a page from The Abominables:

3293_001Nobody can have five helpings of pudding and sleep soundly. And that night, Lucy rose from the bed of leaves in which she slept beside her brothers, and with her blue eyes wide open and her arms stretched out in front of her, she walked —sightless and fast asleep—across the meadows, scaled apparently without effort the ferocious cliffs surrounding the valley, and stepped out onto the eternal shadows.

Originally posted January 13, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Abominables


  1. Bigfoot says:

    This one has been on my to-read list the last several months. I’m bumping it to the top after reading this.

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