The Key to Rondo


Emily Rodda




Children's Fantasy

Series Information


Plot Summary

Leo Zifkak is given a music box upon his Great Aunt Bethany's death.


Leo Zifkak, Mimi Langlander, the Blue Queen, Spoiler (a.k.a. Wicked Uncle George), Conker, Freda, Jim, Aunt Bethany, Hal (a.k.a. Great Uncle Henry), Rosebud



Detailed Summary

When Great Aunt Bethany dies, she leaves each of her great-nieces and nephews a present. Leo is gifted with the music box, and Mimi is allowed her pick from a box of jewellery. She chooses a simple necklace with hair in the pendant, because it's more interesting.

The music box fascinates Leo and he spends a long time studying the box with a magnifying glass, the first clue that something magical happens when the music box is opened and the tune played.

Leo is too sensible to disobey the rules given to him with the music box. His cousin Mimi is not so sensible. In her quest to be right, and for musical balance, she turns the music box key more than three times. Discovering that this leads to the opening of the world, Leo decides to turn it even further, allowing the Blue Queen to escape.

The Blue Queen, in an attempt to lure the children (especially Mimi) into the music box world of Rondo, kidnaps Mimi's dog Mutt. She then tells them that they can also make their way in and out of the music box by means of the key to Rondo, a ring that she leaves for them.

Leo is too sensible to want to go diving into the music box, but it wasn't his dog that was stolen. Mutt is Mimi's only friend in the world, and she's not about to let a Blue Queen take him. Leo manages to catch Mimi as she is about to enter the music box but does not stop her, and only manages to tag along on the trip.

Once there, Leo meets the flower seller Posy and with her help, (and while trying to avoid Office Begood), he locates Mimi who was transported elsewhere. She has run into Spoiler, a curious man in a checkered coat who insists that he is going to help her, and that he was the one who previously sent a note to warn Mimi of the Blue Queen.

Officer Begood thinks Mimi and Leo are part of Spoiler's gang of thieves and runs after them. They escape him by climbing into a hidey hole, a talking gaping capable of holding and hiding just about anything.

Then Mimi and Leo run into Conker and Freda, a man and a duck who spend their days catching dots (gingerbread men run amok) while they're not questing. Conker reveals that he was the one who actually sent the warning.

Conker helps them find disguises by taking clothing from the 'red hooks' where unwanted clothing is left to be claimed by its proper owner. Then he sends a message to his fellow questing friend Tye. Unfortunately, while trying to hide from the owner of the tavern they are in, Conker sends Mimi and Leo through a gap (something of a portal between parts of the world) without explaining the situation. This makes them suspicious of him.

Mimi communicates with small green Flitters who warn her that something bad is coming. She and Leo run away with them to their nesting tree to hide. Soon enough Conker, Freda and Tye, are on their trail. Freda flies up into the tree and spots them, leaving Mimi, Leo and the flitters to flee by flying away.

From there they make their way to Farmer McDonald's farm, where they meet Bertha, a pig. She accompanies them on their journey from that point.

Next they make their way to a cottage in the wood where Leo and Bertha save the baby Rosebud from a wolf, endearing themselves to the family who live there. A family that hides them when Conker, Freda and Tye come looking for them.

Jim, Rosebud's father, helps them to the troll bridge, the last obstacle before they reach the Blue Queen's land.

The troll turns out, not to be the toothless creature that Jim had told them they would meet with, but a vicious troll that won't be placated by a few butter cakes. Jim and Hal, fend off the troll with loud noises. Hal is a hero that Jim had contacted to help Mimi and Leo end their quest.

When they get to Hal's house, Conker, Freda and Tye are there waiting for them, making Mimi and Leo suspicious. But, an explanation of their behaviour allows Mimi and Leo to tentatively trust them.

However, when settling down to sleep for the night, Leo and Mimi discover that their windows are boarded and that they are going to be locked in. Suspicious, they sneak out of the house with Bertha and continue their quest on their own.

With the help of a different hidey hole, they manage to sneak into the Blue Queen's castle. Seeing her engaged in a ballroom with a bunch of monsters, Leo, Mimi and Bertha decide to sneak into the Blue Queen's bedroom and wait for her to fall asleep before snatching back Mutt.

Once in the Blue Queen's bedroom, the children and Bertha hide in the mirror and watch her. She falls asleep and Mimi sneaks out of the mirror to rescue Mutt. However, she cannot dislodge the chain that is attached to him. Before Leo can jump out and help, the Queen wakes up. Mimi and the Queen bargain for Mutt and the key to Rondo. Spoiler (suspected to actually be Wicked Uncle George at this point) interrupts and leads Mimi to believe that the key to Rondo is not the ring she thought it was but rather the pendant she wears around her neck (that she was about to hand over to the Queen in exchange for Mutt).

Alarmed, Leo leaps from the mirror.

There is a scuffle, and the heroes: Hal, Conker, Freda and Tye enter. It is revealed that they intended to retrieve Mutt while the children slept, so that they wouldn't have to. It is also revealed that Hal is their Great Uncle Henry.

Because the Queen is aware of Leo's true name, she is able to coerce him into almost killing himself, threatening to complete the deed if Mimi does not hand over the key (and thereby seal them into Rondo forever). Mimi then throws the key into the fire, destroying it, and the heroes escape.

It is later revealed, after Jim's family who had been swans are restored to their former shape, that Mimi still has the key. She gave a lemon drop in her pocket the appearance of a the key and threw that into the fire instead.


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