Book Review: THE BOOK SMUGGLERS by Anna James (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on teal above two kids emerging from a portal of paper to Venice
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating:
Series: yes - book 4

*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS, TILLY AND THE LOST FAIRY TALES, and TILLY AND THE MAP OF STORIES*

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE BOOK SMUGGLERS: title in gold and white on turquoise above two children and assorted bookish items

Milo lives on board the Sesquipedalian, or “Quip” – a magical train that uses the power of imagination to travel through both Story and the real world. The train is owned by Milo’s uncle, Horatio, and Milo has witnessed many of his uncle’s dodgy dealings as a book smuggler trading in rare books.

When Horatio takes on a dangerous new job, he needs the help of Tilly Pages. And Tilly owes Horatio a favour. But when poisoned copies of The Wizard of Oz are sent to Horatio and Tilly’s grandfather, sending them both into deep sleeps, Milo and Tilly find themselves racing against time to save them – and to figure out what is going on.

Their journey takes them to the Emerald City with Dorothy, rocketing on the unruly Quip, and eventually to Venice in Italy, in pursuit of the mysterious Alchemist. The very essence of imagination, story itself, may be in danger . . .

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

It’s always so delightful when I get around to the next Pages and Co book. The idea of bookwandering into stories is every bookworm’s dream, to spend time with favourite characters and live beloved scenes. While there is danger in this series, it still manages to preserve the magic of bookwandering, rather than making you go “nope, this dream is now something I don’t want to happen” (which is what THE FANDOM did.)

I think part of the reason it works so well here is that there are scenes entirely about the magic of bookwandering. While I am certain they are also performing important character development-related jobs, there is little danger to some bookwandering scenes, little threat. Instead, beloved scenes in classics (aka, books out of copyright!) are reimagined with the bookwanderers inside.

While the “headline” book in THE BOOK SMUGGLERS is The Wizard of Oz, there is also an extended sequence with the famour “Red-Petticoat” scene from The Railway Children. It is very much a “bookwandering is fun” sequence.

The Wizard of Oz scenes are also really enjoyable, even with the added goal pushing it forward. I also really loved how that sequence made it clear from the outset that the book and movie were very separate things in some ways. It was something that surprised me as a kid, reading the book, so that acknowledgement was a nice way to put someone at ease that it wasn’t going to be exactly as they knew.

You might notice that this book is not named the way the previous books were. Dropping “Tilly and” was how the American editions were named. While the title pattern change was a bit jarring, four books into a series, it does make sense. Unlike the previous entries, this book isn’t solely narrated by Tilly. Milo shares the narration, probably saying a bit more than Tilly. The book is broadly split into four parts, with them swapping between Milo and Tilly.

There will be two more books (only two! noooo!) This certainly feels like the start of a new arc in the series, as there are elements brought up but not resolved, and the book ends with a very definite feel of the next story starting.


Read my reviews of other books by Anna James:

Pages and Co (this series):

2 thoughts on “Book Review: THE BOOK SMUGGLERS by Anna James (Middle Grade Monday)

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