A foundling thwarts the machinations of two greedy, duplicitous villains.
Property Jones was abandoned by her biological parents in a bookshop at 5 and taken in by its owner, Netty, and her son, Michael. From this disconcerting beginning, a whimsical tale unfolds in this British import. Six years (and only a few pages) later, Property, Netty, and Michael enter (and win!) a contest to become the new owners of a well-known “Book Emporium.” They barely have time to explore a few of its fantastical rooms before Eliot Pink arrives to dash their dreams, claiming he sold an extremely valuable book to the Emporium’s previous owner but was never paid. Undaunted, Property and Michael investigate Pink and his partner, then devise a plan to expose their trickery. Beginning with a section addressed to readers directly and continuing through the third-person omniscient narration, Bishop’s tone is warm and confiding. Black-and-white cartoon-style illustrations further illuminate both setting and characters, who are all white. The Room of Ocean Tales, for example, features an enormous glass tank filled with sea life; Pink looks a bit like a vampire while Property is big-eyed and winsome. Some clothing details have an old-fashioned feel while others are decidedly contemporary, an incongruity that suits and amplifies the story’s whimsy.
Lively writing, broad humor, and a fast-paced plot will capture and keep readers’ interest, particularly those who, like the author and her characters, love books. (author Q-and-A) (Fiction. 7-10)