Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Bookshop Girl

The Bookshop Girl

Sylvia Bishop
Illustrator:  Poly Bernatene 
For ages 8 to 10
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2018   ISBN: 978-1682630457

When she is five years old, a little girl is left in a bookshop. Her parents come to the store and then they leave without her. The owner’s ten-year-old son, Michael Jones, puts the child in the lost property cupboard. After all, that is what you do with things that visitors leave behind. Michael’s mother, Netty, explains that people should not be put into cupboards, and then she sets about trying to return the child to her family. In the end the police and the lost child posters do not help Netty to find the little girl’s parents. The little girl stays in the bookshop, she becomes a member of Netty’s family, and she ends up being called Property.

Property loves the bookshop, but by the time she is eleven, the shop is not doing very well financially speaking. Indeed, it seems likely that Netty, Michael, and Property might have to leave the shop, and who knows what will happen to them then. The shop is both their home and their business.

Then Netty decides to enter a prize drawing. A man called Albert H. Montgomery owns the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, a famous bookshop in London, and he is going to give it away. There are no terms or conditions to entering the prize drawing so why not.

To Hetty and Michael’s delight, Hetty wins the drawing and in short order the three of them pack up and set off for London. They are warmly welcomed by Albert H. Montgomery himself who, after giving his guests lemonade and angel food cake, proceeds to show them around the shop.

It turns out that the books in the Great Montgomery Book Emporium are presented and stored in a unique way. The books are kept in separate rooms, depending on their subject matter, and the rooms are arranged in a loop, similar to the way in which passenger cars are placed on a Ferris wheel. To access the rooms you pull a lever, and when you open a door a new room is in front of you, ready to be explored.

Mr. Montgomery shows the new owners of the shop the basics of his “mechanical bookshop,” and then he leaves, in a rather hasty manner. Indeed, it almost feels as if the man is running away from something.

The very next day Hetty, Michael, and Property find out why Mr. Montgomery was so keen to leave. It turns out that a man called Mr. Eliot Pink has come to collect payment for a very expensive book that he sold to Mr. Montgomery. The book in question is a newly discovered play written by William Shakespeare, and it is worth forty-three million pounds.

The Jones’ set about trying to locate the book. When they eventually find the precious tome, they are horrified to see that Mr. Montgomery split a bottle of lemonade on the play. It cannot be sold now, and therefore the Jones’ owe horrible Mr. Eliot Pink a fortune, which they cannot pay back. Now they know why Mr. Montgomery ran away.

This book will delight young readers who like books. and who are drawn to tales that contain a mystery. Children will discover that Property, like Mr. Montgomery, has a secret that she desperately wants to keep to herself, but it turns out that her secret, like the bookshop owner’s subterfuge, cannot remain hidden forever.