Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

cover image

Ill. by Paola Escobar. Pages and Co. Book 1. HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9780008229863
(Ages 9-12) Recommended. Themes: Literary characters. Booksellers. Mystery. Missing persons. Anna James introduces a truly wonderful world where you can step into your favourite books and interact with much-loved literary characters.
Eleven-year-old Tilly's mother mysteriously disappeared just after she gave birth to her daughter and ever since Tilly's been living with her loving grandparents above their bookshop 'Pages and Co.' She loves to immerse herself in her favourite stories, hidden in in the nooks and crannies, settled on a bean bag or visiting with Jack who runs the little cafe. He loves to experiment with food, making delicious literary inspired treats.
Tilly arrives home from school dripping wet; it's holiday time and she's prepared for a rather lonely week, with lots of reading and conversations with Jack. When she discovers a dusty cardboard box with her mother's name on the label, Tilly's world is turned upside down. Her favourite book characters Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables appear in the bookshop. Tilly discovers an amazing ability: she can bookwander into any story she chooses.
There are whimsical moments and interesting encounters with the Avonlea characters. With the help of her friend Oskar Roux who loves reading even though he has dyslexia, they venture into Wonderland and Treasure Island. Mysterious and slightly sinister Enoch Chalk is the enforcer. He keeps the strict rules of bookwandering, making sure that that no-one is left in a book or forms relationships with the characters. Will Tilly uncover the mystery of her mother's disappearance and find the truth about her birth father?
Anna James' imaginative and magical novel authentically captures the voices of fictional characters and their worlds. There is a warmth and cosiness to her bookshop setting and an intriguing and mysterious darker layer in the 'Underlibrary'. Paola Escobar's black and white line drawings spring up throughout adding drama and excitement. This is the first in a trilogy and it does rely on the reader's prior knowledge of classic children's books. It also sets up the extensive rules of bookwandering.
Tilly and the Bookwanderers is an exciting junior novel just right for readers who have enjoyed classic children's novels and love the wonder of being drawn into the magic of books.
Rhyllis Bignell