Reviews /

The Secret Society of Very Important Post

Authored by Alexandra Page
Illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

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Magical mini creatures look after lost human post and they get it to where it needs to go. However, there is one very special piece of post that has gone missing, and if it is not found it could have global ramifications!

This is the second adventure with the Sorters for Penelope Black, back in the 1950s, and here she works again with Wishyouwas and two new characters (Bonvoyage from France and Cartolina from Italy) showing readers that there are Sorters across the world. Penny is sadly having to move to Scotland with her mum, as she has a new job, and she is feeling upset about not seeing the Sorters again. However, there is time for one last adventure together. Wishyouwas turns up through the fireplace, to announce that he needs Penny’s help as he has received a summons from the Queen. It turns out that an important letter (the Monarch’s Seal) has been stolen and her secretary (Lady Vellum) wants the Sorters help to find it ready for the Queen’s coronation. Penny, Wishyouwas and their new friends travel around London to see if they can find where the seal is and who took it.

Some of the other reviews of this book mention the Borrowers, and I can see the link. As I was new to the series, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, the Sorter characters are magical and described in such a way that they could almost be believable, which is the essence of a good magical story – you start to think you might see them everywhere! The description of the Sorters home under London is by far my favourite part. This is echoed in the author’s note at the end, where Alexandra talks about some of the places mentioned in the book are actual places that you can go and visit in London, such as Bird Cage Walk and Duck Island Cottage.

The language in the story is perfect for Year 4 and above. In many ways it is a crime novel, with clues and bad guys and police, but in many ways it’s not. The themes of friendship and loneliness, regret and fear, determination and perseverance run throughout the story and the arc takes you through highs and lows, as first the seal is found and then lost again. There are some key dramatic moments, such as when they battle with a bird in the skies above London. There is raw emotion present when the Sorters are blamed for what is happening. The main characters are fun and relate to each other really well. Penny is a great main character, with direct action, sensitiveness and love all rolled into one. I thought the continued use of ‘post-related’ language, such as the names of the characters might be a little trite to begin with, but in the end it fits with the genre and the age group.

There is definitely a question mark though over Penny’s ability to roam around London at night and into certain areas without parental or adult support. Penny’s fear of not wanting to tell her friend Wishyouwas about her move to Scotland might be seen as a way of avoiding talking about her emotions, which we don’t want children to do. Additionally, Penny is convinced that the Sorters have been wronged, but why should she disagree with the authority so extremely?

Due to the location of the story in London, any London school would find this a perfect class-based novel. You could easily use sections to model writing adventure or mystery stories or just for action sequences or how to develop a character through dialogue or description. You could even visit some of the locations firsthand to aid descriptive writing and injecting a sense of emotion or feelings into a piece of writing. It would be fun for children to develop their own Sorter and find out what adventures they might go on with Penny.