The receipt of a review copy of the second Pages & Co book made me realise that I had neglected to review the brilliant first book in the series, so here’s a double review post…
Pages & Co 1: Tilly and the BookWanderers
If, like me, you love getting lost in a good book, this is the perfect read.
Matilda (Tilly) Pages has lived her 11 years in the bookshop owned by her grandparents, Elsie and Archie, who have taken care of her since her mother disappeared when she was a baby. Tilly is struggling to fit into friendship groups at secondary school and wishes that real-life relationships were as straightforward to navigate as those she finds in books; a trait that I’m sure many readers will recognise. Rather than hanging out with a group of gossiping and giggling girls, Tilly would rather find a comfortable sofa in a secluded corner of the, marvellously imagined, Pages & Co bookshop and seek solace in the company of literary creations.
Her bookish traits are clearly inherited from her family and as the story progresses Tilly realises that the three Pages are all being visited in the shop by their favourite characters from books. The vivacious Lizzie Bennett, who apparently bears a striking resemblance to Tilly’s absent mother; Sherlock Holmes who is allowed to smoke his pipe in the shop, and Alice (from Wonderland) as well as “Anne-with-an-e” from Green Gables.
When Oskar, a classmate who lives in the bakery across the road, gets dragged off to Avonlea with Tilly and Anne, Grandad realises that it is time to take action. He accompanies Tilly and Oskar to the Underlibrary of the British Library, where the Librarian, the brilliantly named Amelia Whisper begins to explain bookwandering!
I won’t give any plot spoilers, but this magical adventure encapsulates everything that a book lover dreams of. I am sure that I am not the only bookworm who longs for the ability to read so deeply that the walls between fiction and reality are broken down, allowing interaction with favourite characters.
I adored the description of the stomach-lurching sensation the bookwanderers experience as they are pulled into books; I think I might have experienced it myself with the re-telling of the Ladybird Peter and Jane books which transported me a long, long way back in time to revisit my 5 year-old self! A glorious celebration of the joy of books and reading, this really is an essential addition to every school library.
Pages & Co 2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales
This is the second in the Pages & Co adventures and the story again begins in the north London bookshop, owned by Tilly’s grandparents. Christmas is approaching, and with it a sense of apprehension as Tilly worries about her mother and the strange turn of events at the Underlibrary where Amelia Whisper has been fired, only to be replaced as Librarian by the slippery character of Melville Underwood. Melville has mysteriously reappeared from the realm of fairy tales into which he wandered many years earlier, both Archie and Elsie Pages, along with Amelia Whisper, clearly distrust his explanation of his lost years and his lost sister. For any adults reading this book aloud, the political machinations at the Underlibrary might look uncomfortably familiar! The author brilliantly manipulates the mood from apprehension to impending doom.
As the mood in London darkens, Tilly and her best friend Oskar are due to travel to Paris to stay with Oskar’s father. Before they leave London they are warned by the adults not to try any book wandering while they are away, and especially not to travel into any fairy tales which are wild and unpredictable places! Will they obey the adults, or will Tilly’s curiosity and Oskar’s loyalty to her mean that they take matters into their own hands and explore the “structural discord within fairytales”? You will have to read this brilliantly imagined tale, to find out!
The exuberant writing by Anna James in these books swept me into the stories and fully captured my imagination. Accompanying the brilliance of the text, the illustrations by Paola Escobar, on the covers and throughout the book, and the playful use of font effects make these books visually as well as imaginatively arresting.
Highly recommended for all bookworms of 10+
With thanks to Toppsta.com and HarperCollins Children’s Books for my review copy of Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales, which is now in the hands of a library borrower!