A friend told me about this book 6+ months ago, as a gift idea for my 10 year old niece, mentioning it was a story I’d enjoy too. I forgot about it until she reminded me back in October, so when, just a few weeks later, I saw it at one of my schools’ book fairs, I bought it for a Christmas present, thinking niece and I could read it together, since I’d be spending Christmas with her and her family.
Then, Christmas got cancelled and the book was packed up to ship up to her along with the rest of the presents. I figured I’d get to it one of these days.
Turns out I would; a package arrived at our house 5 days after Christmas, from an online bookseller, containing this book – I never ordered it and there’s NO information in the package about who sent it. Mysteries. The Good Kind.
Anyway, I got to read the book and oh, what an enchanting story it is. Firmly written for middle grade kids, but magical enough to capture this adult’s imagination. Two children, who live above the Grandest Bookstore in the World** have 28 hours to solve 7 challenges or else their beloved dad and their bookstore will cease to exist.
There are shades of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jumanji, and on a deeper level Faust, but nothing ever too heavy for a 10 year old to handle. Everything is couched in adventure and the heavier theme behind the Faustian roots of the story are confronted honestly without dwelling on them. It really is a most wonderfully done story.
** Coles Book Arcade was a real place in Melbourne in the late 1800’s and it really was the Grandest Bookshop in the World. While all the parts the author uses in the book (the tea room, the lolly shop, the fernery, etc.) didn’t all exist at the same time, they did all exist. For those interested, I highly recommend this article from The Guardian, written by the author of this book, which you can find here.