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Binny in Secret

Illustrated by Micah Player

About The Book

School has started, and secrets and adventures await Binny and her family in this delightful novel which Horn Book called “a vigorous blend of screwball comedy and heartfelt emotion” in a starred review.

School has started, and Binny can’t stand it. She has a horrid hand-me-down uniform and the kids make fun of her “posh” city accent.

Then a storm damages the roof of their home, and Binny, her sensible older sister Clem, and her rambunctious brother James (and chickens) must move to a rental home out in the country. Then one of James’s beloved chickens vanishes. What kind of creature is lurking in the undergrowth? And does it need Binny’s protection?

Feisty, fiercely loyal, and totally charming, Binny will have readers rooting for her through every twist and turn of this surprising and hilariously moving tale.


Binny in Secret Chapter One
September the first, and the sort of burglar wind that plucked litter from trash cans and petals from flowers and balls from toddlers and anything else it fancied. The market stalls packed up early and the pigeons all vanished and people walked slightly sideways and screwed up their eyes.

* * *

Binny, aged twelve, reluctant owner of a dark purple school blazer that looked (though it wasn’t) almost like new, was in town with Clem, her seventeen-year-old sister.

It was the last day of the summer break. The next day would be school. Binny so much did not want this to be true that she was busy in her head rewriting the future. She told the improved version to herself like a story.

Lightning zipped . . . zipped or unzipped? Lightning unzipped the sky straight above the Staff Room where all the teachers had rushed to the windows. Not one person escaped the shattering white blast . . . Not cruel, decided Binny. Instant. Painless, probably. And who would want to be a teacher anyway?

Moments later, the whole school was a great pile of smoldering emb . . .

A star-shaped brightness interrupted Binny, a glowing painted airiness, a butterfly.

Lemon yellow, etched with black. Lapis blue edging on the lower wings, each set with a dusty ruby. Caught and lifted on the air.

It was so different from any butterfly that Binny had ever seen before, so unexpected and so lovely, that she dropped her bag to race after it for a closer look.

“Binny!” screeched Clem.

“Oh!” cried Binny, dodging the traffic but colliding with a passerby. “Oh! Oh, stay!”

It didn’t stay. It vanished over the high church wall, gone between one moment and the next, and Binny tumbled back to earth and for the first time saw the results of her collision. A smashed box lay in the gutter, the pavement was scattered with broken flowers, and a voice was shrieking, “LOOK what you’ve done! Look!”

About The Author

Photograph by Bella McKay

Hilary McKay is the award-winning author of The Time of Green Magic (which received five starred reviews), The Skylarks’ War (which was a Boston Globe Best Book and received three starred reviews), Binny Bewitched (which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year and received two starred reviews), Binny in Secret (which received three starred reviews), Binny for Short (which received four starred reviews), and six novels about the Casson family: Saffy’s AngelIndigo’s Star, Permanent RoseCaddy Ever AfterForever Rose, and Caddy’s World. She is also the author of The Swallows’ Flight, Rosa by Starlight, and Wishing for Tomorrow, the sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. Hilary lives with her family in Derbyshire, England. Visit her at

About The Illustrator

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (June 14, 2016)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442482791
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 680L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"With masterful comic timing McKay spins a whirl of horrifying yet hilarious admissions, mishaps, tart exchanges, and domestic tempests, as well as profoundly affecting discoveries and epiphanies, around her intense, sensitive, impulsive protagonist...There's never a dull moment in the Cornwallis household—nor one not rich with love and laughter."

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*"The writing is gorgeous, clear as water; the characters vivid and lively; the story so real each moment of loss, fear, delight and love absolutely visceral."

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on Binny for Short

* "Fans of McKay's Casson books will warmly welcome the delightful and eccentric Cornwallis family... the humorous and poignant interactions among Binny's caring older sister, independent younger brother, and insightful mother are the heart of the novel."

– Publisher's Weekly, starred review, on Binny for Short

*"McKay continues to enthrall readers with her vigorous blend of screwball comedy and heartfelt emotion."

– Horn Book, Starred Review

"Binny is wonderful to spend time with, and putting down the book is like leaving a wonderfully comforting, very British setting filled with good friends."

– School Library Journal

*"McKay continues to enthrall readers with her vigorous blend of screwball comedy and heartfelt emotion."

– The Horn Book, starred review

*"Even those unfamiliar with Binny’s first outing can pick up the thread here, and the mix of history, mystery, and sympathetic everyday-life story will captivate a wide variety of young readers."

– BCCB, *STARRED Review*, September 2015

Awards and Honors

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Hilary McKay

More books from this illustrator: Micah Player