Books about books have the tendency to either be totally magical, and let you feel you’ve found a kindred spirit, or a little bit pretentious, so I was nervous on picking up Pages and Co. However, this is firmly in the former camp, and is a really delightful love letter to books and reading, with a very entertaining story underneath it!
Book: Pages and Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review.
This book is so sweet! Tilly, who lives with her grandparents in a wonderful independent bookshop, discovers that she can talk to characters from her favourite books, and visit them in their worlds. The bookshop itself is lovingly described – actually, the whole book feels filled with love. It’s enjoyable for its own plot, so will be entertaining for children even if they haven’t read the source material, but also really enjoyable as an adult looking back on the magic of reading, and those books in particular. I hope it fires up kids to read some of the classics mentioned.
There is a mystery central to the plot, so I will try to avoid spoilers. Tilly has never given up hope that her mum, who went missing when she was a baby, will come back. Tilly’s new talents of book wandering become the key to unravelling this mystery, via a jaw-droppingly cool underground library and a series of shocking revelations about her family. I loved watching the mystery unfold. I did feel that once the big reveal had happened, the book wrapped up too quickly, without a proper resolution, but this is clearly intended to be a series, so I understand why not everyone got their comeuppance. It was a little jarring though – you know when you’re reading and you look at how much there is left, and you know there isn’t enough time to fix everything..? This book does that in bucket-loads. It’s not a cliff-hanger, per se, just a rather abrupt wrap up.
But the magic of this book is in the talent of book wandering. It’s a paean to those books that changed your life as a child. There are some books that you just meet at the right time, and they touch your soul, and make you into a new person. I’ve never stopped rereading my children’s books – several of them must be at 30+ reads, and they’re the only dog-eared books I have on my shelves! I love reading new MG for many reasons (mostly because it’s so much less depressing than YA or adult!), but certain books that I first read as a kid have not only got a special place in my heart, they made themselves a piece of my heart. In my review of Tempests and Slaughter, I talked about this a little – how I modelled myself on certain characters and made them part of my life. Just imagine if I could have hung out with them, and grown up by their sides for real…
I would have loved to hang out with Anne of Green Gables as a child (though as an adult, don’t you think you’d be a bit sad to always have to stand next to such captivating beauty?). Chatting to Elizabeth Bennet, like Tilly’s grandmother does, would be so much fun, and I probably would have given my left arm to sit and work on cases with Sherlock Holmes, like Tilly’s grandfather. You can most easily wander into books that you have a strong connection with, and this family has very similar tastes to mine! I think I’d most like to spend an afternoon in Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest – have cider with Morwen, help Kazul translate Latin, make chocolate mousse with Cimorene… Either that or attend knight school with Alanna, or help Sophie clean up Howl’s mess… Imagine attending a Hogwarts Yule Ball!
The possibilities for book wandering are endless, and that’s part of the charm of this book. It’s very, very enjoyable as a story in its own right. But the magic of it is how it reawakens that all-consuming love of books that you felt as a child. It’s exquisitely done, and I can’t wait to see more of Tilly’s adventures. I highly recommend if you love, or have ever loved, books – even if you don’t usually read MG.
Four out of five cats (due only to that very abrupt ending).