The Nowhere Emporium
A Wonderous Middle Grade Read
Daniel Holmes never expected his life to be anything special. Orphaned at a young age, he is running from the bullies at his group home when he stumbles upon the most magical of buildings. The Nowhere Emporium's front room holds all manner of knick-knacks to tempt a young boy, but the back is where the real secrets lie. This is where the owner, Mr. Silver, has created wonderous rooms that enthrall and enchant his visitors. He offers Daniel a home there, and a place as his apprentice, assuming he can learn to work the magic that keeps the building running. But, when the magician disappears and the walls start crumbling, it is up to Daniel to find a way to save the emporium, and the friends he has found within.
The writing in The Nowhere Emporium is nothing short of magical. From the very beginning, we are treated to the most enchanting description of the building: "bricks the color of midnight, bricks that shimmered and sparkled under the glow of the gas streetlamps." This continues through room after room, each more wonderful than the last. My favorite had to be Mr. Silver's study
The walls of the square room beyond were completely hidden under rows of bookcases. He narrowed his eyes, squinting at the walls, and realised upon closer inspection that there were, in fact, no bookcases. There were only books. The books were the walls. And in that moment it hit him: every object in the room, from the armchairs to the tables to the lamps, was made from books, or the covers of books, or pages that had been torn from books. The floor was made of books. The ceiling was made of books. A miraculous fire was burning in a fireplace made entirely of books.
The book takes on a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel as we explore the wonders and get to know the strange tenants, including Ellie, Mr. Silver's daughter and the only other person who can help Daniel save the Emporium.
While the description of the building itself was fantastic, I was a little disappointed in the characterization. Daniel and Ellie are fairly well fleshed out, but the other people who live in the emporium are a little flat. There was a great opportunity to create some truly standout characters, but instead they felt as if the details were left on the cutting room floor and the characters that were left, just served to be in the right place, at the right time, to help Daniel's story. I also questioned the actions of the main characters. It seemed strange that Daniel, who was orphaned at a young age and grew up in a group home, would so easily trust Sharpe when he attempts to gain access to the emporium. Likewise, it was odd that Mr. Silver, who clearly spent a great deal of energy to protect the Emporium and his daughter, would disappear at the first sign of trouble. But of course, if he had stuck around, Daniel would not have been able to become the hero.
The plot precedes in a timely manner and has some great surprises. My favorite was the human movie projector who requires a hair as payment to show any memory. Since this is a middle grade book, we can be fairly certain that Daniel will prevail in the end, but there are some moments where I found myself wondering who would make it out with him. There are casualties lost during the battle, but the ending is very satisfying and we are left with a sweet and haunting close that is as magical as its opening.
Maybe, if you truly believe, you will walk through the red curtain, and witness the Wonders and secrets of the Nowhere Emporium with your own eyes.
I can honestly say, I will spend the rest of my life looking.