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The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines Mostly Broken (The Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones) Hardcover – August 1, 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–Emmaline Cayley grew up in India, but as she approaches the age of 14, her very proper mother (who is married to a very proper British colonial official) sends her home to England to attend the harsh St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. Emmaline is not interested in becoming a young lady–she wants to follow in the footsteps of her great-great-uncle, Sir George Cayley, and design flying machines. In the weeks before school starts, she teams up with Rab, a 12-year-old village boy whom everyone calls Rubberbones because he can fall out of a tree or get hit by a brick and suffer no damage, and the two of them build several gliders. Once Emmaline goes off to St. Grimelda's, her potty Aunt Lucy, Rubberbones, and their allies realize what a horror the place is and initiate an elaborate plot to help her escape on a giant, smuggled-in, homemade kite. This comic tale of a slightly alternative Victorian England is goofy and fun. It loses some of its impact, however, because the school–which uses the fearsome pterodactyls it has owned since the 16th century to catch any girls who try to escape–is built up as a horror. But its pompous, ruler-wielding headmistress and teachers don't seem to frighten Emmaline and her friends much, so they won't scare readers, either. Slavin's intricate pen-and-ink drawings are properly atmospheric. A sequel is virtually guaranteed.–Walter Minkel, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This comic tale is goofy and fun ? Slavin’s intricate pen-and-ink drawings are properly atmospheric.

A fun novel ...

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Series: The Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553378822
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553378822
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,990,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Robinson on October 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had read a glowing review of The Strictest School in the World last month, so I was quite pleased when a review copy showed up in my mailbox. The Strictest School in the World lived up to my expectations. It's so much fun! It's a book aimed squarely at the 9-12 set, featuring lovably eccentric characters, larger-than-life bad guys, two independent-minded protagonists, and madcap adventures.

The story is set in Yorkshire, England in 1894 (the late Victorian Era). The two protagonists are fourteen-year-old Emmaline Cayley and twelve-year-old Robert Burns (also called Rab). Emmaline is sent from India, where she has grown up, to live with her Aunt Lucy in England, prior to attending boarding school. (There are definite echoes here of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, though Emmaline is a more independent thinker than either Sara Crewe or Mary Lennox.)

Emmaline is obsessed with creating a flying machine, even though she herself is afraid of flying. Imagine her delight when she meets the intrepid Rab, called Rubberbones because of his rubber-like ability to survive falls with nary a scratch. Rubberbones, who has dropped out of school to earn money for his family, is more than happy to be paid by Aunt Lucy to support Emmaline in her flying machine projects. And Rubberbones turns out to have an instinctive knack for aviation. Together, with the support of Aunt Lucy and her unconventional butler Lal Singh, the two spend the summer constructing flying machines. They have varying degrees of success.

Their happy world is interrupted, however, when Emmaline is sent away to school. The school that her mother has selected for her, sight unseen, has a reputation for being "the strictest school for girls in the world.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to say upfront that "The Strictest School in the World" is my favorite type of children's novel. It's a Middle Grade adventure story involving a daring girl, a crazy aunt, a Dickensian boarding school, and flying machines. What more could you want? Written by Howard Whitehouse and illustrated by Bill Slavin, "The Strictest School in the World" is well written fun for the 9-13-year-old reader.

Emmaline Cayley dreams of flying. Her great-great-uncle was Sir George Cayley, a historical figure and pioneer in aviation, and she uses his plans to design flying machines. Her only problem is that she herself is afraid to fly.

When Emmaline is fourteen, she is sent by her clueless parents from India to England to attend St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. The only benefit to this arrangement is that she has the opportunity to stay with her slightly-unhinged Aunt Lucy before the term starts. There she meets "Rubberbones" or "Rab," a small boy who never hurts himself when he falls. Rather, he bounces on impact. Emmaline has found her pilot and, in her aunt, a source of funding for her inventions.

When Emmaline is sent to school, all inventing has to stop. Instead, she's a student at a the "strictest school in the world." The girls live in fear, the matron is a monster, and a couple of "birds" patrol the ground. Soon a rescue operation is under way to save Emmaline from St. Grimelda's.

"The Strictest School in the World" is funny, smart, and exciting. Emmaline is a wonderful character, a girl scientist who is unflinching in the face of danger. Give this one to a Middle Grade reader today!
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Format: Hardcover
Emmaline Cayley, an English girl who has spent her entire 14 years in India, has been shipped off by her parents to England to attend a boarding school, St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies. Her letter of acceptance arrives from the school:

Miss Cayley,

You are to report to this school for educational purposes. Please do not even consider attempting to avoid this necessity. The arrangements are firm and will not be altered.

The harsh tone of the letter is nothing compared to what Emmaline finds the school to be when she arrives. Under such depressing circumstances, how is she supposed to follow her dream of creating a flying machine? Will she ever see her aunt and friend again?

I put The Strictest School in the World on my to-read list after I read Jen Robinson's positive review (she heard about it from Kelly). And I'm glad I did. Filled with charming illustrations and written in a delightfully old-fashioned manner, this story is enjoyable from start to finish. You will cheer for Emmaline and Rubberbones throughout their various adventures and mishaps. I'm hoping for a sequel!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though I am not probably in the intended demographic audience of this book (I think I've passed the age range), I actually have read quite a few books similar in scope, quite recently in fact. But I wish this one got all the recognition the more celebrated young person's books receive. While the author does pay appear to pay homage to his predecessors (ones I personally sense the presence of are Charles Dickens and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Maybe if you squint, you'll see a bit of P. G. Wodehouse, whom the author mentions by name in the third book of this series if I remember correctly), I do not remember reading any other books quite like this one. There are the familiar elements - a girl with a dream, a boy with an ability, a well-meaning but slightly misguided parent, a benevolent aunt, a capable butler, and a sinister schoolmistress - and the unfamiliar - a smorgasboard of insect-derived cuisine and a rather unique personage from a foreign country, but I don't want to spoil anything. But it is the interactions and reactions of the characters that I love especially, and which I think make the book remarkable as well as incredibly funny. I would like to think that I could be as logical as Emmaline, as resourceful as Rab, and as - er, plucky maybe, as Purnah, even though I do not encounter their level of insane mayhem in everyday life, fortunately. But if I did, I certainly would want an Aunt Lucy and Lal Singh at my back! I hope you are able to enjoy this book, and the two brilliant volumes that follow it.
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