As a bookseller, any story that features a bookstore makes me happy, but this time-travelling fantasy really stands out. The bookshop in question is named Rhyme and Reason, and is run by our teenage protagonist, Poppy Fulbright’s, father. It is sentient and brimming with its own magic, though it can communicate only by changing the décor and occasionally writing quotes from books on a little blackboard. Its front door opens to customers who need a haven in both the near future and recent past. Poppy’s family’s door opens to 1944 New York, where World War Two is still raging.
Poppy loves the bookshop (which clearly loves her back) and wants someday to be a Shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother is supposed to inherit the shop. But Poppy’s brother is messing up the bookshop’s magic with his grief over his closest friend’s death in the War overseas. When her father falls ill, it is up to Poppy to keep the shop open and happy. But things are far more broken that she can imagine.
Though the book is aimed at “upper middle grade” readers, the language is elegant and eloquent. The story is deep and emotionally complex but, while there are adults whose actions are important, it never leaves Poppy’s point of view. The author is willing to tackle the consequences of everyone’s actions in a way rarely seen in books for kids. The bittersweet ending makes the book, I think, a potential contender for the Newbery Award.