Author: Ross MacKenzie
Finished on: 13 November 2016
Where did I get this book: Another of the marvellous Forum Bookshop purchases for my daughter
I am a firm believer that a love of reading is the best gift you can give your child. Admittedly, this may be this is because I have so comprehensively failed to give mine a love for cleaning their teeth properly, or picking things up from their bedroom floors.
Reading is a way for children, and the adults they become, to live many lives, travel in time, learn empathy as well as understand their own feelings, experience the world through different eyes. But most of all to have fun. To have an escape for life, and to never ever be bored. Books for children that capture their imagination, and help to instil a life-long love of reading, are precious indeed.
The Nowhere Emporium is just such a book. It synthesises so much that is familiar, and compelling, in the best writing for children. There have been stories about orphans, and about magic, for time immemorial. Likewise stories about loneliness and friendship; nightmares becoming reality and dreams coming true. MacKenzie visits all these familiar tropes, and more, with such a fresh, simple style that he makes them feel new; makes us feel the pain and the joy again like it’s the first time. And there’s a reason why stories have included these elements forever. It’s because they’re irresistible.
The emporium of the title is a labyrinth of rooms, each containing a different fantasy or experience for those who visit. It travels around the world, and through time, powered by the imaginations of those who visit. Our hero Daniel discovers the emporium one day in Glasgow as he is looking for somewhere to hide from bullies. Daniel is well and truly bewitched, as are we, by the emporium, its magic, its fascinating but tortured owner Mr Silver, and the mystery of how it all works.
The story takes flight when Daniel joins forces with the marvellous Ellie, Mr Silver’s daughter, to save the emporium from an evil stranger. It really is all like some kind of children’s book archetype-fest. But it’s done so well, and there are enough genuinely surprising twists and turns along the way, that MacKenzie keeps us hooked.
Spending time in the nowhere emporium is like spending time in the beauty and chaos of childhood imagination. I think all adults should read a book like this once in a while. There isn’t enough mad, swashbuckling adventure in writing for adults these days. And maybe books like this are important not just because they help children to love reading, but also because they help adults to remember that there’s still a big kid inside us all somewhere.