Title: Wishyouwas: The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters
Author: Alexandra Page
Genre: Magical Realism, historical fiction
Published: 2nd November 2021
Synopsis: Classic-feeling storytelling with bags of charm. Fans of thrilling animal adventure and magical underground worlds will fall in love with Wishyouwas.
It’s 1952 in smog-shrouded London. Christmas might be fast approaching, but with her mum away and Uncle Frank busy running the post office, Penny Black is lonelier than ever.
All that changes when Penny discovers a small, fluffy, funny, springy and – most importantly – talking creature in the post office one night, trying to make off with a letter.
But Wishyouwas is no thief. He’s a Sorter, and he soon introduces Penny to a fascinating secret world hidden in the tunnels underneath the city’s streets. Self-appointed guardians of lost mail, the Sorters have dedicated their lives to rescuing letters that have gone astray and making sure they get delivered to their rightful owners.
Penny is determined to protect the Sorters, but how long will she be able to keep them safe with Stanley Scrawl, the sinister Royal Mail Rat Catcher, on the prowl? Can Penny save the Sorters and deliver a joyful Christmas?
Wishyouwas is a delightful story to get us into the Christmas mood. Set in 1952, just as King George VI dies, and in the aftermath of World War II, where people still have the scars and memories of those years. Penny Black is living with her uncle, who works in a post office whilst the smog keeps her mother, an air mail pilot, stranded in Glasgow in the lead up to Christmas. When Penny finds Wishyouwas, a small creature who collects lost letters to help get them to their recipients, she is thrust into a magical world beneath London, where small creatures sort and deliver the undeliverable, and answer to Dearsir and Dearmadam – Their Royal Highnesses. Yet Penny soon finds out that Stanley Scrawl, a Royal Mail rat catcher, is determined to get rid of Wishyouwas and his friends – and it is up to Penny and Wishyouwas to stop him and save the Sorters and Deliverers – and Christmas!
What an adorable story! I fell in love with Wishyouwas and his friends from the time I met them and loved the way they operated – a secret little underground network helping lost letters and parcels arrive – this would be very useful! I loved the post-war setting, with its sense of peace yet the shadows of the war are still present in the desperation for news, the separation from family, and the fear that there are threats behind the shadows.
This beautiful book is the first in a series, and Penny is a fabulous, gutsy character, whose friendship with Wishyouwas is beautifully rendered and speaks to what it is like to be lonely and seeking a friend, and the powerful sensation and feelings that come with finding that one person who understands you and finds you loveable – as Penny and Wishyouwas do with each other.
I love books set around Christmas, and this one has set the mood delightfully, ensuring that Christmas happens for those waiting, those who are alone, and in a world where families are separated – in some ways, this is much like today, and as we slowly open up, much like the people in Penny’s world, we are reuniting with each other, Penny and Wishyouwas’s story has echoes of what we have gone through in the past few years and the hope that we have for the future.
There is a beauty in handwritten letters, and like Alexandra, I have every handwritten letter and card I have ever received still. This book is a celebration of working together, of Christmas spirit, and of the magic of letters, and the beauty of writing to people and the joy of opening a letter from a friend or loved one that we haven’t seen for a long time. During the pandemic, I wrote many letters, and I still have the responses, stuck into my journal, showing what it was like during these years. The magic in a story like Wishyouwas is the familiarity and nostalgia that some readers will have with the times, or certain aspects of the story, and being able to share this with a younger audience who might not have experienced this. I was also delighted in the little rat-like characters that collected the letters, and their world was delightful and inviting – I think it would be an interesting place to visit, and having been to London, I can imagine the secret underground network, with magical little creatures sorting and taking care of lost post. What a lark!
A beautiful book, a delightful surprise from Bloomsbury and I can’t wait for the next one, and celebrate more of Penny and Wishyouwas’s friendship – that was one of my favourite things about this book.