Ben, eleven years old and the youngest of the Mallory children, has left his aunt and siblings to come to London where his widower father wishes to introduce him to his young future step-mother. Unable to return home when his brother and sister become ill, Ben is left on his own to explore the maze of walled gardens which surround his new home. Soon he meets Thomas, the son of an exiled East African Prime Minister, and Lil, a fatherless cockney waif. All three children, troubled and contending with the dislocation of their new lives, become entwined in each others' journeys of self-discovery and adventure. In Nina Bawden's much-praised second vel for young readers, the lessons and pains of childhood are evinced with characteristic deftness, combining sympathy, affection and timeless wit.
Nina Bawden is one of the most admired and engaging writers of fiction for children and has written more than fifty books. Born in 1925, she was educated at Oxford and completed her first novel the year after gaining her degree. She is the author of such classics as Carrie's War and The Peppermint Pig, and has won the Guardian Fiction Award and the Phoenix Award as well as being commended for the Carnegie Medal. Described by the Daily Telegraph as 'without question one of the very best writers for children', she divides her time between London and Nauplion in Greece.