Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Title: The Bookshop Girl
Author: Sylvia Bishop
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company
Pages: 144
My GoodReads Rating: 

I can never resist books about books or bookshops or the writing process. And so, I naturally gravitated towards this one, and it helped that this charming story was a treat and the illustrations were beautiful.

It is the story of a five-year-old girl whose parents forget her in a bookshop, the White Hart, owned by Netty Jones and her 10-year-old son Michael. The Jones treat her kindly and make her part of their family. And because she is somebody’s lost property, she is named Property Jones.

When the story begins, Property is 11 years old, and we come to know of a dreadful secret, one that Netty and Michael have never suspected, and that secret is that Property cannot read.

It is at this time that the family comes to know of the Object of Wonder, a contest run by Albert H Montgomery, the owner of the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest bookshop in Britain, and probably in the world.

The Joneses go on to win the prize, which includes a very surly kitten, named Gunther, who is as far from a pet as you can imagine. You might think that it would be the beginning of a happily-ever-after for them. But that is not the case. 

There is no story without conflict, and it is the same here. A huge challenge threatens, forcing the Joneses out of their Book Emporium and even out of the White Hart Book shop. It will be up to Property, with a little help from Gunther, to save the day. But how can a little girl who doesn’t even know how to read go about saving the only family she has?

The pace is breathtakingly fast as Property works hard to win back her family home.

The book was originally written in German. The English translation was sweet and quaint and the illustrations a total delight.

The book conjures up amazing visual delights, not unlike the world created by Roald Dahl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve always imagined Paradise to be crammed with books from floor to ceiling, similar to the library in the Beauty and the Beast, but the Book Emporium has a device that ups the ante, adding ambience to enhance the effect.

Another delightful aspect of this book was the friendly manner in which the narrator addressed the reader, talking to us in the second person.

The book evokes so many of the feelings that are close to a book lover’s heart, the smell of the books, how we love them even when they are old and yellowed, the sound of pages rustling. I also liked the fact that this book makes a strong case for abilities, in the face of inabilities, pointing out that every skill has its significance. The importance of the family is underscored here, as being the people that care about you, no matter what.

We don’t get much backstory about Netty and Michael, nor about Property, and we don’t care. It is this adventure that concerns us. Even so, the few details that we gather are enough to make us care for this family of Joneses.

I liked Michael. He loves dictionaries. I do too. On winning the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, Michael’s face lights up at the thought that they will have every book in the world. What a treasure that must be!

Property has amazing powers of observation; she can tell a lot about books even though she cannot read. She can figure out the genre of a particular book by the cover and the thinness of the paper alone.

My daughter and I both enjoyed this book very much.

(I read this book through Edelweiss.)

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