Toronto: Tundra Books, 2012.
This is the first book I’ve read by Michael Bedard, whose Redwork won the Governor General’s Award for children’s literature in 1990. The Green Man is a loose sequel to A Darker Magic, but I don’t think you lose anything in the telling by not having read it first.
A little like Jo Walton’s Mor, who picks up I Capture the Castle thinking it’s about medieval siege strategy but finds a delightful novel instead, I picked up The Green Man in the hopes of reading more along the lines of the Arthurian trails I’ve been following with my middle son. The Green Man is, in fact, the name of a bookstore, so while I did not get what I was looking for, I got what I wanted.
Fifteen-year-old O, short for Ophelia, goes to spend the summer with her aunt Emily, who owns a second-hand bookstore that has seen better days. Emily has had a heart attack, and while she is stubbornly independent, the plan for O to stay with her, while her father goes to Italy to research his book on Ezra Pound, works to everyone’s advantage. Emily encourages O’s budding interest in poetry, O begins to restore order to the bookstore, she meets its ghosts, and she begins to sense the magic that lingers there, not all of it good. There is a (too-thin) thread of time travel, a shape-shifting magician, a handsome stranger and lots and lots of references to poets and poetry. And books. Lots of books.
The book is not perfect, but it was the right book at the right time for me. I read it in one sitting, and while I can’t see reading it to the boys at this point, I do think that any book-loving child or adult could find a happy escape into its pages.