Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: Pages & Co : Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

– Short Review –

The second book in the “Pages & Co” series follows Tilly and best friend Oskar on a, pre-Christmas, trip to Paris.  It’s not long though before they discover a quirky bookshop, owned by Gretchen (who was once the best friend of Tilly’s grandma).  Whilst they have been told not to indulge in any bookwandering whilst on their holiday it only takes a little encouragement from Gretchen for them to step into a fairy tale book.  They quickly meet Jack (and his beanstalk) but it soon becomes clear that all is not well in the land of fairy tales as black plot holes are cropping up all over the place.  Can they escape and solve the mystery of the escaping book magic?
If you enjoy the folklore of “The House With Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson you’ll enjoy the twists given to fairy tales in this one.

– Longer review –

The first thing to say about this book is that if you haven’t read it’s predecessor, “Pages & Co – Tilly and the Bookwanders”, please do.  I hadn’t and it was a disadvantage for the first hundred pages or so, as this tale very much follows on from book one.
That said, once you’ve got a grip on the characters and concept it’s a fun and easy story to follow.  In essence Tilly is the daughter of a human mother and fairy tale father.  Her grandparents are the owners of Pages & Co bookshop and important members of the Underlibrary, a secret sub library whose members can bookwander.  As the name suggests, they can stroll into any book and interact with the characters within.  However all is not well at the Underlibrary – the current head has been ousted and replaced by Melville Underwood, who has just mysteriously reappeared after being missing for many years.
Tilly’s grandparents don’t trust him and are working with trusted friends to try and uncover Melville’s plans.  Meanwhile they send Tilly off to Paris with best friend, Oskar, so the pair can enjoy a pre-Christmas break – with strict instructions not to partake in any bookwandering as it could prove dangerous.
However kids will be curious and when Oskar’s mamie takes them to the Faery Cabinet, a bookshop owned by her good friend Gretchen, it doesn’t take more than a gentle nudge for them to dive into a fairy tale book.
However fairy tales can be especially perilous, by virtue of the fact that they often have many different versions and can be unpredictable.  Before long they’ve encountered some favourites – Jack & the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and a whole host of Prince Charmings who are looking for Rapunzel.  When a particularly arrogant prince steals Oskar away things suddenly take a worrying turn, are they about to become trapped?
With black plot holes appearing all over the place and a mysterious crack in the sky it’s clear that all is not well in this book landscape and they manage to stage an escape through the end papers – thankfully finding themselves in the Parisian underlibrary.
On their return to the UK there is still an uneasy atmosphere as Melville tightens his grip on the underlibrary and when Gretchen makes a surprise visit and, once again, encourages Tilly and Oskar into a book they really find themselves in a sticky situation………..
This book provides a really inventive way of using traditional fairy tales in a fresh and exciting way.  The concept of wandering into a book is surely something any book lover has dreamed of at some stage and a great way to spark the imagination of a younger reader.  There is enough peril to keep the pages turning and the promise of another exciting adventure to follow, in the USA.  This mystery still has at least one more chapter, hopefully more!
Pages & Co : Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales is published by HarperCollinsChildren’s and is available here.

Anna James

anna james

Anna James is a writer and journalist living in London. Anna was Book News Editor at The Bookseller magazine and was Literary Editor of Elle UK. Anna has also written for The Pool, The LA Times, The Financial Times and The Independent, as well as making bookish YouTube videos as A Case For Books. She hosts literary events and panels and is the co-founder and host of the YA Salon in London. She was shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Award for Women in Publishing in 2015, and the London Book Fair Trailblazers Award in 2016.

Review by Angela Paull

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