Here's a nice one about magic intruding into the ordinary world that makes a lovely followup to my post on Tuesday about Any Which Wall--Magical Mischief, by Anna Dale (Bloomsbury, 2010; published in the US in 2011, younger middle grade, 304 pages).
Mr. Hardbottle's bookstore has fallen on hard times, thanks to the magic that has crept in and taken over. Although many of its manifestations are friendly and diverting, there's no getting over the fact that the noxious odor that comes with the magic has driven away almost all the customers. And the rent has just gone up....
Then a young boy named Arthur, and a woman in her fourties (which is still very young, says I determinedly) named Miss Quint collide in the rain one afternoon outside the shop. When Mr. Hardbottle invites them in to dry off, they end up experiencing the magic for themselves, and become his allies in the quest to find it a new home. Somewhere atmospheric, but uninhabited....
But then Miss Quint, left to watch the bookshop along with Arthur while the search for the new domicile is underway, begins to wish for company while reading the books, and the magic listens. Before her common sense re-emerges, she's filled the bookstore with all manner of fictional characters. The first of these is such a small character in her own book (being simply "girl waiting for a turn at the swings") that she has no name (Miss Quint picks "Susan" for her), and as Susan gradually has a chance to experience more than her book offered, she becomes a good friend to Arthur.
The other characters, however, are more of a problem....and Arthur and Miss Quint have their hands full in trying to keep a grab bag of random characters under control in the modern world.
It's a lovely, light-hearted look at magic gotten out of hand. Susan is an especially endearing character, and it was very nice indeed to watch her become a real person (with an especially nice magical adventure of her own!). Highly recommended to fans of Edward Eager, although it's not so episodic--there's more emphasis on the story, and less on the characters--and also a tad reminiscent of the lighter side of Diana Wynne Jones. It made a perfect quick read for a wet winter evening after a trying week at work, and I imagine the right sort of child reader (ie, me as a child) would like it too.
The one thing that annoyed me is the American publisher making needless changes to the UK edition. Surely Harry Potter taught us that Americans can cope with British words, and indeed, want them kept British? Why, in this day and age, must pounds become dollars? It makes me feel all distrustful--what else have they changed that I missed?
Interestingly, they didn't change the cover--even though I don't think I've ever seen a birthday banner (in the yellow area over the books; pretty impossible to see in the online image) saying "many happy returns" over on this side of the pond.