Where do you go when you need to avert the world’s worst disaster? When your best friend Lottie moves away because her parents are no longer talking to each other? When you really don’t like your new teacher, Miss Rose Smelly Toes, and you’re forced to sit next to the new boy at school? Mrs Owl’s Magical Bookshop, of course! Clara is down in the dumps and the bookshop always cheers her up. There’s Mrs Owl with her perfect recommendations and chocolate treats, books that fly off the shelves and come to life, Gustav the rhyming cat who loves his own jokes, and Mr King the perceptive talking mirror. But there’s also Mr Schwartz, the grumpy antiques dealer who wants Mr King back, and another mysterious character who seems determined to shut down the bookshop … But who can it be? And how can Mrs Owl, Clara, her family and the local community save the Magical Bookshop before it’s too late?
The Magical Bookshop is a heart-warming, funny and sensitive middle-grade novel that had me both laughing out loud (Ahmedzai Kemp has done a magnificent job of translating Gustav’s rhyming jokes) and rooting for Clara as she faced new challenges at school without her best friend Lottie. This 156-page book is bound to be a hit with younger readers who enjoy stories about friendship, ordinary heroines who achieve the extraordinary, and a sprinkling of magic that only a few characters can see. Florentine Prechtel’s black-and-white illustrations, dotted across the chapters, help bring the characters to life in a subtle way. Butterflies flutter across the page, footprints leave their mark and each character makes an appearance, yet readers are still left the space to use their own imagination. As Clara and Leo’s friendship grows, Frixe also gently challenges stereotypes – so this is definitely not just a book for girls!
Reviewed by Johanna McCalmont
THE MAGICAL BOOKSHOP
by Katja Frixe, with illustrations by Florentine Prechtel
Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Published by Rock the Boat (2021)
September 2021 #RivetingReviews titles are available to buy from bookshop.org.
Johanna McCalmont is a Northern Irish translator and interpreter based in Brussels where she works from French, German, Dutch, and Italian. She is a regular contributor at World Kid Lit. Read more about her work here and follow her on Twitter @jo_mccalmont.
Read Johanna McCalmont’s #RivetingReview of SUMMER BROTHER by Jaap Robben