Title: The Bookwanderers (Pages and Co. #1)
Author: Anna James
Author: Anna James
Publication: Philomel Books, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction/Fantasy/Series
Plot: Eleven-year-old Tilly Pages has taken refuge in the books at her grandparents’ bookstore since the loss of her mother. But when her favorite characters “wander” into the shop, Tilly learns she can follow them into their stories and her adventures begin. Can she use Bookwandering to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance?
My Impressions: Her grandparents’ bookshop, Pages & Company in London, is Tilly’s favorite place in the world. It is the kind of store I would love to visit – five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas, and a spiral staircase. Tilly escapes through books, and she needs an escape because her mother, Beatrice, disappeared when she was little and she has few friends. When she finds a box of her mother’s books, she learns A Little Princess was Beatrice’s favorite. But it is a girl named Anne with red braids who appears briefly in the shop, reminding Tilly of her favorite book, Anne of Green Gables. At first, Tilly doesn’t believe that her favorite book characters can lead her into any book she chooses but soon she is having exciting adventures and making new friends. For the most part, James does a good job recreating authentic voices of Alice in Wonderland, Anne Shirley, and Sara Crewe.
A book that showcases A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables, two of my all-time favorites, is clearly made for me. My sixth-grade niece was reading this at the same time as I, which was entertaining, although I suspect she has not read either of those books. I liked the secondary characters: Tilly’s concerned grandparents; Jack, the 19-year-old baker for the bookshop cafe, who is trying to recreate books and treats from books; and Oskar, whose mother runs the Crumbs Café across the street, who joins Tilly on her adventures. He seems to be her first friend who is not in a book, and he plays the practical Tib Muller role. Bookwanders is not perfect but there is a lot to enjoy, not least that it reminded me of stories my sister Clare and I used to write that transported our characters into our favorite books. I think we called it Schoolgirl Sorcery.
Favorite Quotes: “The books we love when we’re growing up shape us in a special way,Tilly. The characters in the books we read help us decide who we want to be.”
“Why, you can’t wait for adventure to find you, Matilda,” Anne said. “You must go and find adventure, and shake it firmly by the hand as you set out toward the horizon together.”
Alice nodded merrily. “Welcome to Wonderland! It’s always teatime here. Let me
introduce you,” she said, skipping over to the table. “And please don’t mind them if they are a little rude until they get to know you, and quite likely for a while after that as well.”
“Okay, guys, stop, please,” Tilly said. “Can this wait? Oskar, we are in Avonlea, which is where Anne is from - that’s what matters. We are in her life, in her story, like I told you with Alice.”
“I can’t believe Alice took you to hers first,” Anne said, obviously still smarting.“But I got Oskar!”
“Yay,” Oskar said weakly.
Books Mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, Swallows & Amazons, The Faraway Tree, A Little Princess, The Worst Witch, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Animal Farm
Swoonworthy Spoiler: I never thought about Sara Crewe’s father as having romantic hero potential, given that he dies so early in the story, but I like the creativity!
And Yet: The flap copy calls this "an enchanting story about the magic of books and the power of imagination" and yet this is magic, not imagination. Or is it a tribute to the author's imagination?