Review – Alice-Miranda in New York

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones may live in a hoity toity world of mega wealth and out-of-our-league boarding schools, but this down-to-earth seven-year-old (seven and three-quarters, actually) has the wisdom and clarity of a Buddhist monk. This sweet little girl is daughter to Hugh and Cecelia, owners of the stunning Highton department store – a luxurious establishment about to undergo a refurbishment and relaunch in that most desirable of cities – the Big Apple.

Alice-Miranda and her parents are spending a month in New York, overseeing the re-opening of the store, and Alice-Miranda is delighted to be attending Mrs Kimmel’s School for Girls, headed by her mother’s dear friend, Miss Jilly Hobbs. There, she quickly makes friends with two very ‘ordinary’ girls – Ava and Quincy – and also the monumentally wealthy Lucinda, daughter to Morrie Finkelstein, owner of a rival luxury department store.

The rivalry between Finkelstein’s and Highton’s is a long and secretive one. For reasons unknown to Hugh and Cecelia, Morrie Finkelstein can’t bear the Highton family – and the feud goes back a long, long way. When Alice-Miranda begins to learn of this feud, of the unfair way he controls her friendship with Lucinda, and of the despicable things he is doing to interfere with the Highton store re-launch, she begins – as is her way – to openly and frankly question Morrie’s hateful ways.

How can Alice-Miranda rescue her friendship with Lucinda, save the Highton store opening from certain disaster – and help heal an unnecessary rift between two families? If anyone can do it, AM can – and with her consummate intelligence and charm.

Jacqueline Harvey has penned a tightly-woven and detailed plot in her latest AM adventure. She has infused this dedicated plot with old-world storytelling charm, and risen the pulse with plenty of action and high-jinx. Her descriptions of the ‘high life’ are evocative, fanciful and beautifully balanced with a warm, approachable main character and a cast of fascinating sub-characters.

This is a book for younger readers, with a hefty dose of sophistication – not only in the subject matter but the writing style and thoughtful choice of words. Children as young as seven or eight will delight in Alice-Miranda’s adventures and her purity of heart, while older readers (10 – 12) will enjoy the elevated plot threads, language and relationship subtleties.

Although AM is a pure, emotionally and spiritually developed child, whose modus operandi is to ‘make things better’, Harvey most thankfully steers her character away from schmaltz and moralistic preaching, and instead offers up a thoughtful and engaging storyline that relies on good old-fashioned storytelling, and the timeless and highly entertaining ‘good guy/bad guy’ theme. Alice-Miranda is by no means twee – she is courageous and direct and, frankly, inspiring.

Alice-Miranda in New York is a story of family, friendship and honesty. I just loved touring this spectacular city once again, via the pages of this gorgeous book, and I loved sharing the journey with Alice-Miranda who is, all-in-all, a remarkable little girl.

Read an interview with Alice-Miranda, right here on KBC! Alice-Miranda in New York is published by Random House.

Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.