Christmas Countdown Day 3 - The Grandest Bookshop in the World

The Grandest Bookshop in the World

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – live in a bookshop and be surrounded by the magic of words and other spellbinding things, like cake. Siblings Pearl and Vally Cole are living that dream. But it’s not just any old bookshop; it’s the Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne. Their fantastical story germinates from their father’s own stirring rags to riches tale and meanders closely to the actual chronological time line of the eccentric Edward Cole, founder of Coles Book Arcade in the late 1800s.

The key thing to remember be you staff, family member or patron of the Arcade is that buying a book is secondary to enjoying your visitation. Customers are encouraged to relax, read, dine on tantalising fare, wander through the exotic gardens harbouring monkeys, or perhaps select a curious toy for a well-behaved youngster. These fascinations really did exist and in the Cole children’s thrilling tale form the critical backdrops to their chilling (fictional) adventure.

After the ever vigilant and brazen Pearl learns of a shocking deal made between her Pa and an enigmatic stranger by the name of Obscurosmith, she and Vally attempt to thwart his plan to possess the Bookshop, their home and whole existence. A deal is made with dire consequences; if they cannot complete Obscurosmith’s evil game of seven challenges in time, not only will Pa perish but the Arcade will cease to exist and all those within her extinguished forever.

This glorious race against time is enhanced by Mellor’s evocative language and crisp portrayal of the central characters, Pearl and Vally. As they attempt to solve and survive increasingly more cryptic puzzles, they each encounter their own personal roadblocks which test their courage and tenacity. It is not until they truly learn to work together through facing a whole arcade of near disasters and fears that the pair eventually appreciate each other for all their individual shortcomings and talents.

The feelings of terror and desperation are palpable between the covers of this book, almost as conspicuous as the presence of magic. Imagine if we could teleport back to the 1880s and experience this adventure with Pearl and Vally; if we were able to bear witness to the curios and creatures, the jollies and extravagances of the Cole family. How mad and marvellous would that be, which sums up The Grandest Bookshop in the World superbly.

This is a story that must be experienced not only for the extreme sense of wild adventure it exudes but also for its ability to ignite interest in the past. And throughout it all, Edward Cole’s adroit aphorisms and observations about life and humanity gently give us even more reason to love books and all that is contained within them. Kids will drool over the wonderment and complexing conundrums. Adults will delight in the unrestrained freedom of  revisiting youth.  

Title:  The Grandest Bookshop in the World
Author:  Amelia Mellor
Publisher: Affirm Press, $19.99
Publication Date:  September 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925972955
For ages:  9+
Type:  Middle Grade Fiction

Buy the Book: Affirm Press, Booktopia


Norah Colvin said…
I have a copy of this and I think it's next on my reading list. :)
DimbutNice said…
Oooh goody. You must tell me what you think once read. :-)

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