Let me start off this review by saying that I have never felt so mixed about a book in a long time. There is a brief introduction to Property Jones (age 5) and her adoptive family, Michael (age 10) and Netty (Michael’s mother). Property’s parents abandoned her in the bookstore owned by Netty and Michael, the White Hart. Now, Netty did what any reasonable person would do — she took Property in and she became a part of the family.
The story begins six years latter and we catch up to Michael and Property as they first learn about a contest to win the Great Montgomery Book Emporium. *spoiler* — they win. It wouldn’t really be much of a story if they didn’t, right?
The first two chapters of the book has a handful of amazing illustrations that tell more of the story than the author does. Aside from a few generalizations, the characters are flat and not engaging. There was nothing that grabbed me and pulled me into the book. The chapters are on the long side and seemed to ramble on and not really say much.
Chapter three introduces Mr. Montgomery, the now former owner of the emporium, and Mr. Pink, a sinister looking man demanding the return of a valuable manuscript. It also introduces the wonderful, amazing, fascinating, Emporium. Unfortunately, we only get brief descriptions of several “rooms” but nothing more. I wanted to spend more time in the rooms, know the books and the customers who browsed them, but….no. We are also introduced to Gunther Armageddon the Third, a spunky kitten who takes an instant liking to Property. For some reason, Bishop opted to write “the Gunther” rather than just the cat’s name after introducing it. It became quite annoying after a while.
The story picks up its pace races for the finish line at chapter ten. I’m not going to give away too much, but everyone learned the following: (1) not to drink lemonade in a bookstore, (2) people can be easily duped
good things happen when you least expect it, (3) people always do the right thing in the end, and (4) family is family – no matter what.
The story picked up pace so fast, it never stopped to grow. While that may work for some middle grade, especially lower middle grade, it just doesn’t work here. I can see this book appealing to fans of Lemony Snicket, Jerry Spinelli, and Louis Sachar.
I was left wanting more, but not in a good way. I wanted to know more about the characters, more about the bookstore, more about everything. It felt rushed and superficial.
There are some good qualities to the book and the illustrations are FANTASTIC.