Title: The Magical Bookshop
Author: Katja Frixe, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: Bloomsbury/One World
Published: 3rd August 2021
Synopsis: This is Clara’s favourite place in the whole world. Here, Clara can settle down and get lost in one of the many books, joke around with Gustaf the rhyming cat, and get advice from Mr King the talking mirror. Not only does Mrs Owl love to give out chocolate cake, she also has a book tip for every mood. But when an antiques dealer claims the mirror is actually his and tries to take it back, Mrs Owl is distraught. Clara and her new friends must find a way to save the bookshop – and Mr King.
Mrs Owl had a knack for finding the perfect book for every customer, before they even realised what it was they were looking for.
What do you do when your best friend moves away? Clara takes comfort in her favourite place: Mrs Owl’s bookshop. Surrounded by books that spring to life, a rhyming cat and mounds of cinnamon buns, Clara never feels alone.
But someone is determined to close the bookshop down. Now it’s up to Clara and her new friends to save it.
When Lottie moves away with her Mum, Clara feels like she will be alone forever, and never be happy again. She takes refuge in the magical bookshop owned by Mrs Owl. After school starts, and she meets her new teacher – Sophie Rose (or Smelly Toes as Clara calls her), she spends more time in the bookshop, and starts to make friends with the new boy in her class, Leo. Leo makes things a bit better – amidst the uncertainty of a life without Lottie, and facing the woman whom Clara blames for Lottie having to leave. Yet at the same time, Clara finds out that her beloved bookshop is under threat – and she is determined to find a way to save it and enjoy it with all her friends.
The Magical Bookshop is an amazing book – one that has timeless themes of friendship and acceptance, where we learn how to come to terms with changes in our lives. Of course, no bookstore would be complete without a talking cat who talks in rhymes all the time – and in my opinion, every bookstore should have a Gustaf – what fun patrons would have with such a cat! Clara’s story is one that will be relatable to so many people of all ages who have had friends move away. The sting of your best friend leaving for a new place – even if you can keep in touch – is painful, and there are times you’re not sure if you will ever find someone like them again that you can connect with in the same way. I felt that this was how Clara felt as she navigated a new world, whilst finding comfort in something familiar.
I adored Leo – he was understanding and supportive, just what Clara needed while she was coming to terms with what has changed, but Clara will find that Leo is special, just like Lottie. I loved the power of friendship in this book, and that Clara was allowed to express herself with those around her. It is a powerful message to kids that it is okay to feel the way they do, because all feelings are valid and can be worked through.
The sense of community in this book was beautiful too – it showed that coming together for a cause like saving a bookshop is beautiful and gives a sense of what a community is and what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. It is also a story about acceptance and change – and the different ways these manifest for people. I would love a magical bookshop in my life – though bookshops are already magical, having one with a talking cat and an owner that knows what you need before you even know would be fantastic to experience!
What a beautiful book this was to read, a lovely surprise from the publisher!