The Grandest Bookshop in the World is… well, in the world now! I’ve been getting messages from total strangers, gorgeous reviews and great news from my publisher, Affirm Press. Here’s some of the media coverage it’s been getting lately.

ABC Radio Melbourne: Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons
Discover the strangeness of Mr Cole’s books, the inspiration for the Departments in the book, and why Vally has such an ‘unusual name.’ Start at minute 45 to catch my interview. (This one was a rush! Jacinta also really made sure people caught my name and the title, which was fantastic.)

My article in the Guardian: Cole’s Book Arcade was Melbourne’s literary funhouse, but its creator was truly inspirational
Even in a gorgeous emporium full of lollies, monkeys, music, funhouse mirrors, toys and talking birds, the best part of Cole’s Book Arcade was Cole himself. (I’m published in the Guardian! Can you believe it?!)

Mornington Peninsula magazine: Enchanting children’s tale revisits a grand chapter in our history
I grew up on the Peninsula so I’m thrilled to be featured in the MP Magazine.

Love Your Bookshop Day: The magic of bookshops
Here’s my post on the Affirm Press website about what made Cole’s Book Arcade magical, and how its spirit lives on.

Alpine Observer: Bright author launches debut novel for children
Another brilliant write-up in our Alpine Victoria newspaper! I reckon that makes me a true local.

ABC Goulburn-Murray: Breakfast with Sandra Moon
The inspiration for The Grandest Bookshop in the World, why I included magic, and some of Mr Cole’s futuristic predictions. Start at 2 hours, 50 minutes to catch my interview.

Review on Better Reading Kids: Cole’s Book Arcade comes to life!
A gorgeous review on Better Reading!

Dymocks Catalogue: Our Favourites for October – Children’s Book of the Month
‘A brilliant, whimsical book… I can’t recommend it enough.’ – Lucy, 13

Good Reading Magazine: Meet the Author!
A short and sweet Q&A with Good Reading Magazine about how the characters were inspired.

Middle Grade Mavens: Episode 66
An outstanding review on this Aussie literature podcast by two Melbourne mums – parents of keen little readers should subscribe immediately! Plus, an interview in which I discuss research, family and the theme of loss.

NEWS: Register for my events!

Readers, as promised, I’m posting links today for some of my upcoming online events! Obviously, I would love to be there in person, but it’s still important to stay safe. Victoria’s lockdown has been tough but effective, saving lives and sparing thousands from potentially lifelong brain and lung damage. Six weeks ago, we had more than 740 new cases in a single day. Today, that’s down to just 21 new cases in the state of Victoria. While it’s a little disappointing that I can’t tour around, mingle and sign books, I count myself lucky to be part of a strategy that I think, in time, will become the envy of the world.

Anyway, there are other advantages to having virtual events. One is the reduced environmental impact of travel and catering. And the other is that my international friends can come! Whether you live in regional Victoria, metropolitan Victoria, elsewhere in Australia or overseas, you can join in and keep up with me and the Coles without even having to put on shoes. Or pants. I won’t judge.

Here are some of the events I’ll be doing and platforms where I’ll be featured in the coming weeks.

Tuesday the 22nd of September, 6.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time: Interview with Richard Broinowski, author of the new EW Cole biography Under the Rainbow
Join Richard and me to discover the true story of E.W. Cole’s extraordinary life and cultural legacy. Free; register to receive your link to the event.

??th of September: Talking Aussie Books with Claudine Tinellis
The podcast will be recorded this Friday. I’ll update this page when it is released, but in the meantime, go ahead and check out the archives! Free.

Tuesday the 29th of September: Release day!
Order your copy if you haven’t already, or if you’re in Australia but outside metro Melbourne, seek it out at your local bookshop! AUD$19.99 RPP.

Wednesday the 30th of September, 1pm AEST: Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons on ABC Radio Melbourne
774 ABC Melbourne! I’m bloody famous! Melburnians can tune into Aunty – the rest of us can listen online. I’ll post the podcast afterwards. Free, because… it’s AM radio.

Saturday the 3rd of October: Love Your Bookshop Day
A little article I’m doing for #LoveYourBookshop. The link will be up on the 3rd!

Tuesday the 6th of October, 6.30pm AEST: LAUNCH PARTY!
This is the big one! I’ll be joined by fellow Alpine resident and MG author Carly Nugent (author of The Peacock Detectives) to officially launch The Grandest Bookshop in the World. Free; register to get your link to the event.

Friday the 9th of October, 11am AEST: Children’s writing workshop via Harry Hartog Books
Create and get to know your characters! Recommended for children 8+, within Australia. Places limited. AUD$30.75; price includes a copy of The Grandest Bookshop in the World plus postage.

I’ll be updating this list when podcast episodes become available, new events are confirmed and articles are published! I’ll leave you today with a review from my publisher’s eight-year-old neighbour, who flagged him down in the street to say:

‘[Your daughter] gave me the book. It was brilliant! I stayed up last night reading it. Don’t tell my mum!’

But what about Mrs Cole?

Readers, life has not become any less strange in the past two weeks. The Grandest Bookshop in the World will be released on the 29th of September (locked-down Melburnians can order it here) and I am bombarded by engagements! Good thing it’s almost time for the school holidays. Next week, I’ll be posting links to some of the big events I’ll be doing, including:

– 22nd of September: Interview with Richard Broinowski, author of the new EW Cole biography Under the Rainbow
– 29th of September: The book is released! Like a wild beast!
– 30th of September: Tune into Radio National 774 ABC Melbourne at 1pm AEST for Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons
– 6th of October: LAUNCH PARTY! I’ll be joined by fellow Alpine resident and MG author Carly Nugent (of The Peacock Detectives) over Zoom via Melbourne’s The Little Book Room
– 9th of October: Children’s writing workshop via Harry Hartog Books

So make sure you pop back next week to get access to all of those – and if you’re in Sydney, keep an eye out on George Street in late October!

Now, as promised, this blog is going to get mighty Cole-focused over the next couple of weeks, if not until Christmas. So today, I thought I’d answer a question that many people ask, and that I wish more would. It’s easy enough to find out about Mr EW Cole – author, bookseller, autodidact, activist, self-made man and all-round genius. It’s easy enough to find out about his mad – and successful! – effort to find a wife through a newspaper advertisement, on the logic that business partners were found through the same channels.

But what about Mrs Cole?

Mrs Cole wearing the rainbow brooch Mr Cole commissioned for her, aged in her thirties. I found this image in the archives at the State Library of Victoria – the original of the same one that you’ll find in the Turnley biography and the Broinowski biography, only they got it without the reflection of the library lights.

Today I’m going to share with you ten things about Mrs Cole that I’ve discovered during my research, all of which informed her character as the mother of Pearl and Vally in The Grandest Bookshop in the World.

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Inspirational object #4: Cole’s Book Arcade token!

Well, readers, the next couple of weeks are gearing up to be some of the strangest of my life. I’m going to be featured in a magazine. I’m going to have an interview on the radio. I’m going to appear in a video for a major bookshop chain’s Book of the Month.

So, with The Grandest Bookshop in the World about to get quite a lot of attention, the next couple of posts around here are going to be dedicated to the big debut.

Closer to the end of September, I’ll put out a full list of what I’ll be doing and where the book will be featured. Today, I reckon it’s time I showed you an inspirational object I’ve been keeping to myself for a couple of months. You might remember, way back in 2017 when this mad journey started, that I said I didn’t have a Cole’s Book Arcade token, but hoped to get one soon.

Well, I did not get one soon. It took me two and a half years! Plus a couple of extra months because the guy who sold it to me on eBay straight-up forgot to send it!

But at long last, here it is.

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The mountain – a sonnet

The Year Nines are studying Shakespeare with me, so I’ve got sonnets on the brain. Stage 3 Lockdown was announced across my state today, Stage 4 in the capital. I am relieved, but also a little disappointed that people weren’t responsible enough to make the earlier stages work. In my new house, however, I have all the tools I need to clip happily along through it, including space, light, quiet and solitude. I also have a seriously amazing view.

Iambic pentameter + seriously amazing view + exciting promo stuff for The Grandest Bookshop in the World = a sonnet for the mountain outside my window. I’ve taken a million photos of this mountain, but the camera doesn’t do it justice at all. Rather than post an unrelated stock mountain photo, I’ve left today’s poem without an image.


The clouds have blown away; your jagged peak
Presides above this valley’s misty slopes.
Now all the world is doubtful, mad and bleak –
You shine on the horizon like my hopes.
You’re shadow-blue at dawn, and white at noon;
At sundown, pink; cold grey when overcast.
You change, yet are as constant, as the moon,
The sky around you glorious and vast.
Some day soon, I will touch that gleaming snow,
Make new clouds with my breath – all in good time,
For though you are within my reach, I know
That first, I’ve my own summit yet to climb.
Until then, ever-changing mountain ancient,
Restore me with your beauty, and your patience.

NEWS: Pre-order my book! New apartment! FAQ! Second book!

I say ‘apologies for the late post’ here so often that it might as well be my catchphrase. Forgive my tardiness. I have spent my weekend moving house. Also, my Year Nines were so horrible today, with the exception of a handful of smart and shy girls, that I have spent all evening in a frenzy of chores so that at least things can be quiet and organised and ready for me at home.

Anyway, in happier news, you can now pre-order The Grandest Bookshop in the World on the Affirm Press website! So for everyone asking me ‘when can we buy it?’, you can buy it now. Go for it!

It’s also available via Book Depository, Booktopia and Amazon. If I can steal a marketing technique from Mr Cole: look for the gold, and the rainbow! 

Books | Affirm Press

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NEWS: ‘The Grandest Bookshop in the World’ trailer

Cole’s Book Arcade will open on the 29th of September.

It is the finest sight in Melbourne and the grandest bookshop in the world.

This is the book trailer that was filmed six weeks ago to promote The Grandest Bookshop in the World. I had to drive out to Castlemaine to film in the gorgeous Mount of Alex secondhand bookshop. It was a really cold, wet day so it was nice to be indoors around so many glorious books!

You might recognise the Cole books appearing in the video from this post. They look right at home on the set where we were, but they’re actually part of my little Cole collection. Photos from the original Book Arcade appear in the video too!

This has all been a huge effort by the wonderful team at Affirm Press and I’m thrilled to finally be able to shout it from the rooftops. And don’t miss the beautiful cover by Elissa Webb and Sylvia Morris at the end of the video!

Riddles and puzzles, part IV

Well, readers, the light at the end of this revision tunnel is coming towards me, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a train. In four weeks, this round of edits (the fourth significant rewrite) has progressed slowly but surely from clueless magenta and vague yellow to self-assured turquoise and fulfilled green:

One of the greatest challenges for me in this rewrite has been coming up with the sixth perilous task for Pearl and Vally Cole to complete in their game with the devious Obscurosmith. My editors and I had a few frequently contradictory criteria for what this task should be, including:

  • Easy enough for the average ten-year-old
  • But hard enough to challenge the average twelve-year-old
  • Related to – or better yet, anchored in – the Book Arcade department in which the scene takes place
  • But not dependent on prior knowledge of the story, which readers cannot be expected to remember and characters likely will not remember due to magical mind alteration
  • Different to all the other intellectual challenges the characters face in the book (riddles, visual puzzles, word puzzles and philosophical conundrums)
  • But still in the spirit of Mr Cole’s Family Amuser and Intellect Sharpener
  • Simple enough that the physical peril and stakes of the scene are not pushed aside to make room for showing convoluted chains of reasoning
  • But complex enough that the characters still an obstacle to overcome

I took five days to come up with a puzzle that satisfied all of these requirements.

Not five days to write the scene – that took even longer. Five days to write a decent puzzle. I have fresh respect for crossword writers, my editors, and Mr Cole. I mean, I have the internet. If I get stuck, I can find thousands of new puzzles, and entirely new types of puzzles, in the blink of an eye. I have the books Mr Cole wrote to build on, as well as those of other authors from his time. He had to use whatever puzzle books existed in the late 1800s, the people around him, and his own dang brain. 

Here are some great puzzles and resources that I either discovered in my research, or did not make the cut. 

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NEWS: ‘The Grandest Bookshop in the World’ has a 2020 release date!

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‘Extra, extra!’

Good morning, wonderful readers!

This is a bit of a bittersweet post because I have some very good news, but it means that today will be short and practical, rather than the creative content that characterises this blog.

Item 1: New town

I’m writing to you from my new home in the mountains. Despite the social impact of the bushfires (the town was evacuated several times during January, before I arrived) and the occasional smoky day, I have fortunately not seen any fire nor been directly affected. It’s a beautiful area and I have been welcomed with enthusiasm. Even in suburban-esque residential areas, you can always hear native birdsong and often see kangaroos grazing on people’s front lawns. The river is 200 metres down the road and the water is cool and mostly clear – although it was tinted black with ashes during my first few days.

I’ve even joined the local amateur theatre company and have landed a hilarious part in their play: a twenty-something failed writer hell-bent on revenge against one of her uni lecturers. I get to tie up a senior citizen, shoot a prop gun and swear a lot. Continue reading

Ten terrible pickles I would be in if I fell in a time warp right now


A fact that has been impressed upon me many times while researching ‘The Grandest Bookshop in the World’ is that the past was terrible in ninety-nine out of a hundred ways.

I do have a special fascination with the Industrial Revolution and Victorian society, but that fascination is compounded by the knowledge of all the ways it completely sucked. Yes, on the one hand, they were not dealing with the imminent collapse of the ecosystems upon which they depended for their survival. Yes, amazing treasures like Cole’s Book Arcade and the thylacine still existed.

But on the other, one in three children died before they reached school age. Eighty-five per cent of the global population was illiterate. The best medical treatment they had was “inducing hysterical paroxysm”, while the worst was throwing a combination of snake oil, heroin, cocaine and leeches at the problem until the patient either died or didn’t. And unless actual physical filth was visible with the naked eye, nobody washed their goddamn hands.

That’s not even touching the massive systemic oppression: classism, sexism, ableism and good lordy lord, the racism.

So, while some people with a favourite historical period wish they were born in those times, I do not. In fact, here are all the ways I would be completely screwed if I fell through a time warp into the Cole family’s Melbourne right this minute, with only the clothes on my back and the contents of my handbag.

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