2018, 468 pages
Adult fantasy fiction
Papa Jack’s Emporium is the magical toy store of everyone’s dreams. It opens each year on the day of the first frost in London, and closes when the first snowdrop blossoms. The Emporium is also a family: Papa Jack and his sons, Kaspar and Emil, who are close in age and intensely competitive in their toy-making. When a runaway girl, Cathy, applies for work on Opening Day of 1906, it is only natural that their lives evolve into a complex tangle. When it becomes clear that Cathy is pregnant, and has nowhere to go when the Emporium closes for the season, secrets become layered upon secrets, as she finds a home within its walls and a different kind of friendship with each of the brothers.
The author’s brilliant use of language is the first attraction to this book, but it isn’t long before the reader is drawn into the storytelling as well. The ever-changing Emporium is wonderfully described, with its complex interior and fabulous displays. The space seems to expand and contract with the family’s fortunes and emotional states. Like the family, the Emporium is forever changed by the Great War and its aftermath.
Papa Jack believes that, “Once upon a time, all of us, no matter what we’ve grown up to do or who we’ve grown up to be, were little boys and girls, happy with nothing more than bouncing a ball against a wall,” and that deeply understanding children’s happiness is the essence of the magic of making toys. The perfect and touching finale to this story allows the gift of toy-making to continue, even after the modern world has moved on beyond this one happy, enchanted toy store.
Tricia HutchinsConcord Public Library
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