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Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales – Anna James

NOTE: this review was done on an electronic version of the novel, kindly provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

This is the second book in the Pages and Co series. This magical middle grade (8+) follows Tilly, and her friend Oskar as they ‘bookwander’. Which is to travel into books and have adventures, interacting with characters and having a generally wonderful time. Imagine being able to have a picnic with Mole in Wind in the Willows, or escape from the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass.

Tilly lives in her grandparents bookshop and they try to protect her from the dangers of book wandering and slowly introduce her to the Underlibrary, who are responsible for looking after and maintaining stories.

This sequel was inevitable given the dangling plot threads and impending danger in the first one. This story spins off in a whole new direction with intrigue, adventure and a foray into the current political climate and the rise of uninformed, hysterical leaders who only want to act for their interests. Possibly the first middle grade book I’ve read with an allusion to Brexit and far right nationalism!

As before, this is nostalgically and beautifully written, harking back to the heady days of great friends and fun adventure by an author who equally loves books and the bookish world. It maintains a middle grade level of danger, along with likeable characters and a sense of expansion for the fictional world James has created.

There are twists and turns and getting lost in a good book will never feel the same again. The only downside is this is very much a middle book, so it widens and deepens bookwandering, without providing a firm conclusion to anything, so is the very definition of leaving you wanting more. More of everything including the wonderful illustrations by Paola Escobar.

A brilliant wintry read with a chunk of the book taking place in a close to a Christmas setting. Really lovely.

PS, in case you missed it, here’s a link to our Reviewer, Emily’s review of the first in the series…