The Ogre of Oglefort (Dutton 2011 in the US, Macmillan 2010 in the UK, middle grade, 247 pages) by Eva Ibbotson, which I just read a few days ago, is now my favorite book of hers. I'd tried her other middle grade fantasy (Dial-a-Ghost, The Secret of Platform 13, Island of the Aunts, etc) and found them just fine; I've tried her YA fiction (which actually were published for the adult market back in the 20th century--thanks Kate for the clarification), and again, pleasant, but not so as to Love.
The Ogre of Oglefort, on the other hand, pleased me very much indeed, in as much as it has many of my favorite story elements in a nicely written package.
These elements include:
Element 1. A quirky "family" of sorts--a collection of mythical/magical creatures (a hag, a troll, an enchantress, and others) eking out a life for themselves rather unhappily in London.
"The Hag and the troll were good friends, and by the time they had drunk three cups of tea they felt better. After all when so many Unusual Creatures were going through bad times, losing their homes, doing jobs they would never have thought of doing in the olden days, it was wrong to grumble, and life at 26 Whipple Road was really not too bad." (page 6)
But then the Hag's familiar, a toad named Gladys, refuses to come to the Summer Meeting of Unusual Creatures, which forces the Hag to desperately look for a new one, and which leads to
Element 2. An orphan boy (I don't know why it is, but many (though by no means all) books with orphans are very good). The Hag and the boy had made each others' acquaintance through the bars of the orphanage gate, and when he hears of her trouble, the boy begs to becomes the Hag's familiar, and they head off on
Element 3. An interesting journey/quest/task. In this case, the Hag, the boy, a wizard of dubious competence (with an extremely domineering mother) and the troll confront an Ogre on a far off island who has, apparently, kidnapped a princess. This might not sound on the face of it all that interesting, but there are lots of twists, one of which is
Element 4. A castle/large house with garden that has fallen into disrepair, and the main characters must work to get it all in shape again. Bonus points for outside work.
Of course there's more to the story--the ogre, the princess, the other people they meet at the ogre's castle all have parts to play! But the elements above, and the deft humour which Ibbotson brings to her telling of them, made this a book that I enjoyed very much indeed. Recommended highly as a light and diverting read for the younger middle grade fanasy reader, and for those who share my taste in books.