magic bookshop

Stuart and I had planned to spend Easter Monday going for a hike in the countryside. But when we packed our lunches, pulled on our hiking boots and headed downstairs, we found someone had bashed down our front door in the night. Nice. So went spent ages reporting to the police, talking with the neighbours, getting a new front door and all that palaver, and by the time we were finished, there was really only time to go for a hike in our local park. But our local park is possibly the most beautiful city park in the world, so we were not too disappointed.

On the way back, as if by magic, this old building that has always looked closed up was suddenly a bookshop, and open for business. It’s properly musty, with strange little nooks and crannies and rooms that wind around so impossibly that you forget where the front of the shop is.

Apparently it’s been there all along, full of books, but I used to pass it almost every day and I swear, I never once seen it open. I think it must exist in a different dimension or something.

And the first book I saw when I walked in was possibly my favourite book from childhood, Jennie by Paul Gallico. My dad bought me the British edition when I was little, but it was titled The Abandoned in the States, and I was surprised to learn on Wikipedia that Gallico was actually American.

It’s about a boy who’s hit by a car, turns into a cat and is chucked out of the house. He runs blindly through London in a panic until he collapses in a warehouse in the Docklands. A skinny female cat named Jennie befriends him and teaches him how to be a cat, which is far more complicated than the boy ever expected. They have some marvelous adventures in the docks, go to sea, and then the boy-cat has to prove himself in battle when a larger, bruiser of a tomcat stakes his claim on Jennie.

A lot of people know Paul Gallico for his story The Snow Goose, but Jennie was the first one I read and adored, and I later discovered Thomasina and must’ve read that one at least 20 times as well. I just found out there’s a Disney film of Thomasina called The Three Lives of Thomasina, but I watched the trailer on YouTube and it looks very sweet and spruced up, not at all like the dark, tortured, exhilerating wildness I remember from the original story. Here are my copies, with my new purchase from Greenwich Book Place in the centre:

I promised Stuart if I bought this book (only £2.50!), I would give away the other copy, but I’m not sure I can part with either. I have my original copies of several books – The Secret Garden, The Twenty-One Balloons, Watership Down – and I’m very attached to all of them. Not that they’re valuable editions, just that they’re the ones I first read. Here are some other covers for Jennie I just discovered from the Internet:

I think Paul Gallico has gone out of fashion, I never hear people talking about him anymore. I wonder if he’s due for a revival soon. I’d love to see one with Jim Medway illustrations.

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