Book Review: TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS by Anna James (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white above a tunnel of pages with playing cards and girls
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - first book


Book cover for TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS: girl hold a book as pages and characters swirl around her on a red background

Eleven year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop ever since her mother disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories.

One day Tilly realises that classic children’s characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of `book wandering’ – crossing over from the page into real life.

With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland. Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I have never read a book about real books coming to life and characters going into them (fictional books, yes, but not real ones). I watched the Inkheart movie and got all of ten pages into the book before giving up, but TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS was a brilliant place to start reading this sort of book and I wish I’d tried books like this before!

It was so much fun to live out the dream of meeting characters through Tilly, to imagine the conversations you could have – and then to be shown the dangers. There are very clear rules for what can and can’t happen, and how it affects the stories themselves – which made it easy to follow the stakes.

All the books Tilly goes into or meets characters from are classic books – presumably because of copyright laws! The characters Tilly meets felt so true to the original representations of them, with their mannerisms and tones. The amount of time labouring over the books to get them feeling the same must have been staggering, but it’s well worth it as it strengthens the feeling that Tilly is falling into books.

I rather spoilt one of the final twists for myself by googling some character names to see who were from books and who weren’t (the way a few characters were introduced made it hard to guess whether they were or not), and it threw up a review of the book with the spoiler as the “featured text”. It didn’t spoil my reading of the book though, as I was reading with the knowledge and able to pick up the clues. I do partially wish I’d been able to read and experience the twist myself.

There are some words here and there that are formatted differently from the others – different sizes, at strange angles. It made it a little hard to read at time as it just crowded up the lines as they were distinct enough at times. It was also sometimes hard to work out why a word was at an angle, when there wasn’t an implicit motion to the word. It’s a minor thing that I’m sure others loved, and I usually like. It simply didn’t work well for me this time.

I’m looking forwards to picking up the second book at a later point this year. I think the third instalment is also releasing this autumn? In the meantime, I’d like to go bookwandering, please.

Read my reviews of other books by Anna James:

Pages & Co (this series):

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