Books & Literature

Book Review: WishYouWas, by Alexandra Page, illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee

JUNIOR FICTION: Classic-feeling storytelling with bags of charm. Fans of thrilling animal adventure and enchanting underground worlds will fall in love with Wishyouwas.

A sweet magical Christmas story set in 1952 London about friendship and being brave.
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Alexandra Page spent her early life travelling between England and Zimbabwe. She now lives in London and WishYouWas is her first children’s book.

This is the story of Penny Black, who is staying in a post office with her Uncle Frank, the postmaster. Her mother is an airmail pilot, stuck in France and unable to come home because London is shrouded in fog. 

One night, Penny sees what she thinks is a rat in the post office, but soon realises it is something altogether different … a sorter! Sorters are small, fluffy, talking creatures that live in the tunnels under London, finding lost mail and making sure it is delivered to their rightful owner. Unfortunately, the Royal Mail rat catcher, Stanley Scrawl, is determined to rid London of every single sorter. And so, begins Penny’s fight to save these small creatures whose only aim is:

The Law of the letter is written in ink!

Its rules we obey without stopping to think.

We gather and solve and deliver what’s lost,

Without causing trouble or damage or cost.

She makes friends with this sorter, whose name is Wishyouwas, and he takes her to the tunnels where she meets the other sorters as well as gatherers and deliverers, who help with lost mail.

This is the story of friendship and having someone’s back through thick and thin. There is danger, excitement and lots of love.

WishYouWas is an enchanting book for any child from about 7-12 years. Each of the 24 chapters is very short, making it perfect for bedtime reading. Set at Christmastime as the delivering of mail all over the world is at its most frantic, this book would make an ideal present. The reader is able to imagine the home of the sorters and the life they lead through the descriptive passages of Page. 

The beautiful front cover embellished with gold lettering and border is very tactile. It has a bright red post box on the front with Wishyouwas peeking out of the slot. The black-and-white illustrations throughout the book are a perfect addition to the story. Some of the text may be unfamiliar to some children who have never heard of fountain pens, a bureau, or a compass, but the illustrations are there for reference.

Page’s description of the murky fog shrouding London makes the reader feel they are actually there. Stories written about small creatures have been done before (The Wombles and The Borrowers) and these small creatures are just as adorable.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Released: November 2021
RRP: $24.99

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

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