I absolutely love this return to her whimsical, feel-good style from Katrina Nannestad, in this new and thoroughly delightful series. Although pitched at younger readers, I can absolutely see my older readers, who are keen fans of TheGirl, the Dog, the Writer…taking this up with glee and loving it.
Mim Cohen travels with her father, little brother, a horse called Flossy and a cockatoo called Coco in their travelling bookshop caravan. Where ever Flossy leads them is where they are meant to be and when they arrive in a small Dutch village, it is clear that they are here for a reason and when Mim meets Willemina, a kind girl who is being horribly bullied, it seems to her that she needs to help. But is it just Willemina who needs help?
The travelling bookshop is a magical entity and visitors are always completely surprised when they first enter it to find how mysteriously capacious it is. After all it’s not every old wooden caravan that contains a basement is it? One of it’s greatest mysteries – or perhaps the mystery of Mim’s dad, sometimes known as Dreadful Zeddy – is the fact that the bookshop provides exactly the right book for the right customer, despite any thoughts to the contrary by either customer or Mim. So the woman who is looking for a crime novel but takes a book about termites, or the man who searched for a tome on tractors but ends up with Knitted Tea Cosies may be initially rather baffled but as it unfolds, have exactly what was needed.
Their sojourn in the pretty little Dutch village and their interactions with the inhabitants is heart-warming and joyous, full of imagination and wonder which will enchant readers from around 7 years upwards. I for one can’t wait to read more adventures of Mim and the travelling bookshop and look forward to the next instalment with great anticipation. And I certainly want to know more about Mim’s mother, the world-travelling civil engineer.
I’m going to really enjoy promoting this one to my middle/upper primary kiddos as well as my younger secondary ones who are already great fans of Katrina’s work.
Very heartily recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.
One book about children surviving in the conflict of war that has always remained with me was Journey into War by Margaret Donaldson. It was one I used often with upper primary children and it offered so much scope for discussion and reflection. I have long lamented that I don’t have a copy of my own as it is out-of-print. Now at last I have a truly worthy alternative.
The Wolf family must leave their home and everything they know as the Russian army swarms into East Prussia. Carrying as much as they can Mother, Liesel, Otto, baby Mia and their grandparents join a long procession of refugees in an arduous trek in search of safety. But such escapes are rarely easy and when the children find themselves completely alone and lost, they must do whatever they can to survive and for Liesel, protecting her little brother and sister is her primary concern. Surviving in the depths of winter is a nigh-impossible task for any children but to do so with the last violence of a war raging around is another entirely.
So the Wolf children become indeed wolves. Living like wild creatures, often without shelter, stealing food and clothes, raiding where ever they are able just to stay alive. They are not the only child casualties of the terrible war that has ravaged their country and, at times, they join forces with other wildlings. When they are caught up by Russians things look very grim for them but fortunately one of the soldiers becomes their friend and helps them along their way.
Eventually the children find themselves in Lithuania where they are taken in by a kindly elderly couple and finally have some respite and safety. They grieve desperately for their family – parents and grandparents – but are at least able to feel secure and cared for. Even in the darkest times miracles can happen and the outcome for the Wolf children proves that hope, warmth and kindness can exist in the worst of circumstances.
Young readers will be mesmerized by the gripping adventure and the challenges faced by the children and will be uplifted by their grit and resilience. Katrina Nannestad has wrought a novel that will hold its place for many years.
Highly recommended for your collection and if your teachers are searching for a fresh and engaging class read this would make a perfect suggestion.
Young Freja, sensitive and intelligent, along with the hairy hound Finnegan and eccentric crime writer Tobby have left Rome to go to the picturesque village of Claviers in Provence, where it just happens their beautiful friend Vivi has also moved to further her pastry-making career.
Freja discovers that not only can she make friends of the grown-up variety but that she can also have the happy companionship of other children – precocious little Pippin, the twins Cossette and Edith and Christophe, the perpetually hungry would-be priest. Altogether it is an idyllic time, although Freja still misses her mother Clementine so much, until that is a spate of nasty crimes begins to cause grief for many of the villagers. As Freja determines to uncover the villain of the piece, she not only longs to see her mother but also begins to seriously wonder about her relationship to Tobby. Is her uncle? Could he be her father? It is all quite a muddle and though there are some clues (as Freja perceives them) not quite enough to draw a conclusion.
I just love this series. It is so fresh and original and feel-good. Of course visiting such beautiful places vicariously is also a plus! But reading these reminds me of my favourite chai from my lovely coffee shop. First there is the delicious light froth, both sweet and spicy simultaneously followed by the warmth of the milk, satisfying and leaving one with a feeling of well-being. The stories are funny and often ridiculous with Tobby’s antics but permeating them is the wonder of love, friendship, trust, discovery and happiness.
No wonder the first was a best-seller! Readers will eagerly pounce on this one as well and will all, as I will, be waiting for the next episode in Lucerne, where we will learn more about Clementine’s illness and perhaps the kinship between Freja, her mother and Tobby.
In the meantime I highly recommend a sojourn in beautiful Provence for readers from around eight years upwards.