Monday, July 4, 2011

Read Love Reviews: The Castle in the Attic

The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

Pub. Date: August 1986
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Format: Paperback, 179pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
ISBN-13: 9780440409410


Synopsis from the book jacket:
William has just received the best present of his life. It's an old, real-looking stone and wooden model of a castle, with a drawbridge, a moat, and a finger-high knight to guard the gates. It's the mysterious castle his housekeeper has told him about, and even though William is sad she's leaving, now the castle is his!

William can't wait to play with the castle--he's certain there's something magical about it. And sure enough, when he picks up the tiny silver knight, it comes alive in his hand!

Sir Simon tells William a mighty story of wild sorcery, wizards, and magic. And suddenly William is off on a fantastic quest to another land and another time--where a fiery dragon and an evil wizard are waiting to do battle . . . .

My Review:

I enjoyed The Castle in the Attic so much that I read it in one sitting, breaking only for dinner.  Having been bogged down in lengthy books, I wanted to read something fun and uplifting.  I picked up and quickly discarded several things, unable to concentrate or focus long enough to be drawn into the stories in those books.  So, emboldened by the fact that this was a slim volume, and recaptured by the imaginative promise of the book cover, I began to swiftly, but not hastily, plow through to the conclusion.

Terrific! Magical! These were some of my responses during and immediately after reading.  The Castle in the Attic inspired a sense of wonder in me, similar to the reaction I had when I read the first book in the Harry Potter series*. That's not to say that this book is comparable to Potter in the scale of its imagination or its world-building.  The Castle in the Attic does not focus on world-building.  While that might have made it more epic, its brevity gives the story a focus that makes it easy to get swept into the tale and follow the plot along.  It was nice to read a book that is taut.  In today's post-Potter world of dictionary-sized volumes, there is much fat that is often left untrimmed by publishers and authors alike.

I think this charming story reads like a small-scale Lord of the Rings quest.  Good triumphs over evil.  And there are lessons learned--most importantly, that one already holds the best weapon for fighting any battle in the love and strength within his own heart.  It is the values inside this story that made my reading so enjoyable.  Since this tale involved castles and knights, the story's morality is neither awkward nor intrusive, for they are intrinsically housed in the knight's code of chivalry, which focuses on virtues and ideas like honor, loyalty, compassion, love, and faith.

While good does triumph over evil, the story ends with the hint that we may not have seen the last of the enemy.  Indeed! for there is a companion book:  The Battle for the Castle.  But, alas, that's a story for another time!  

*Incidentally, Harry Potter was my first foray into kiddie lit as an adult--I was one of those kids who quickly graduated out of kids books, dabbled in YA for a brief time, and then dove hard and fast into adult literary fiction.  In short, I had become a "book snob".  Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for helping me see that not only was it okay, it was necessary to read purely for fun at times.


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