Pages & Co. – Anna James

Stars: *****

Tilly has always lived at Pages & Co. bookshop with her grandparents. They’ve always looked out for her, especially so since her mother disappeared when she was younger. Tilly absolutely loves living in a bookshop – she gets lost in lots of adventures and adores being surrounded by books and stories. Her favourite characters are Anne Shirley and Alice – she feels as though they’d be the perfect friends. Tilly struggles to build friendships in real life, and fantasy friends seem so much simpler.

When she’s sent across the road to Crumbs in order to borrow vanilla for the bookshop’s cafe, she tentatively befriends Oskar, a shy boy from some of her classes at school. As he usually spends all his holidays with his Dad in France, he finds friendships tricky too and is glad to have someone to spend his days with. But he didn’t bet on the adventures they’d be having together!

Once she has returned to Pages & Co., Alice and Anne appear in the bookshop. Tilly realises she’s different – surely not everyone notices literary characters around them? Then, when she ends up in Wonderland, she knows there’s something going on that she hasn’t been told about. Soon, she’s taken to the Underlibrary and realises she might wander into a few more stories yet…

I absolutely adored this book – it was magical and the charm spilled from the pages!

In this fun, imaginative tale, the reader can see the enjoyment and beauty that reading can bring. I felt jealous the entire time that I can’t bookwander myself (I’m with Oskar – Hogwarts would be my first stop!). I loved the references to classical children’s literature throughout the book which make you want to explore (or rediscover!) these amazing stories. I definitely need to read A Little Princess again soon!

Tilly is a lovable character; she wants to make friends but finds it difficult and needs to learn how to do this on her adventures. She has the support of her grandparents and Oskar in her real-life and fictional adventures, but still needs to find out for herself how she can make her own way forward. She keenly feels the loss of her parents and wants to find out more about them, and herself.

I absolutely loved Enoch Chalk as a villain – he was suitably sly and creepy and I kept guessing his agenda throughout the pages. The story was beautifully written with twists and turns that continued to the very last pages of the book. I read it in a day and couldn’t put it down! I can’t wait to read the sequels and continue my bookwandering with Tilly.

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