The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams by Victoria Williamson

Illustrated by James Brown.

Published by Tiny Tree Children’s Books, 2023.

I have long been a fan of Victoria Williamson and I’m always excited to read what she’s written next. The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams is an eerie fantasy adventure that gave me Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas vibes.

In a strange little village called Witchetty Hollow, eleven-year-old Florizel is the first to run into the curious visitors who’ve come to open a brand new Daydream Delicatessen and sack-baby factory. At first, it seems the daydream confectionary and cheap sack children are the best things that could have happened to the poor folk of the Hollow – after all, who has the money to rent their child from Storkhouse Services these days?

However, after a few weeks, Florizel starts to notice something odd happening to the adults of the town. First, they seem dreamy, then they lose all interest in their jobs and families. Soon they’re trading all their worldly goods in the newly-opened Pawnshop in order to get money to buy daydreams. When the adults have no money left for rent payments, the children of Witchetty Hollow are reclaimed by Storkhouse Services at an alarming rate. Can Florizel and her new friend, the sack-boy Burble, uncover the sinister plot and save the Hollow?

The book skilfully explores addiction and obsession, and the power that companies peddling a highly desirable product can wield. The population of Witchetty Hollow – old and young – are very quickly in thrall to the dream-inducing delicacies sold at the Delicatessen and can think of little else beyond their next fix. The townsfolk normalise and justify their dependency, and the consequences are terrifying. Even though the story is set in a fantasy world, it’s easy to draw parallels with our own experiences of addiction and obsession – be it with screen time, social media, food or drink.

I loved the book’s sinister Dickensian atmosphere and setting. Victoria’s wonderful descriptions of swirling mist, dark alleyways, and black cloaked villains had me on the edge of my seat. Not to mention the scenes in the graveyard at midnight! I know the book will send a shiver down the spine of a young audience too.

Florizel and Burble make a terrific team and Burble is as endearing as Florizel is quick-witted. As they pursue the truth, the two of them get into some terribly tight spots and these scenes are fraught with tension. Many times, I found myself holding my breath!

I devoured the book in two sittings; it was exciting and original, with a brilliant cast of characters. Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever look at a cake shop in the same way again!

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Tiny Tree for sending me this book to review.


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