Friday, March 15, 2013

Pure Magic

WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER by Jessica Day George: I read this to my six-year-old daughter and we were both enchanted. My daughter immediately asked for the first book in the series, TUESDAYS IN THE CASTLE, and I agreed we couldn't miss it. Celie is a princess in Castle Glower, a strange place that adds and subtracts rooms, mostly in accordance with the family's needs. Celie has been working hard on an atlas to keep the castle geography straight, and one day, she finds herself in an odd tower she's never seen before. And in the tower is an egg, which Celie hatches, finding herself caring for a baby griffin. The castle doesn't seem to want her parents to know about it (the door disappears when she so much as thinks about telling them), so she manages with the help of her brother, Bran, and his friend Pogue. The three embark on a research project to find out about the history of Castle Glower and griffins (which are thought to be purely mythical), but their project is compromised by the appearance of the shifty Wizard Harkower.

This was a delight to read aloud, a gentle fantasy that feels like an enduring classic. Celie is a thoughtful child, and (unlike many heroines of children's fantasy) her first instinct is to go to her parents for help with the griffin. It is only when the castle makes it clear that they must not know that she settles into raising the griffin in secret. Her siblings, Lilah, Rolf, and Bran, are fully realized secondary characters, and Pogue and Lulath charming nonfamily characters. What a magical read. Descriptions of Celie flying with her griffin are riveting, and her affection and care for the beast are charming. The castle is fascinating, its whimsical changes taking on a menacing air as more and more rooms appear for no reason. Celie's disappointment at being replaced as the castle's cartographer by an adult mapmaker rings true, and her panic at the difficulty of keeping a roaring, shoe-chewing griffin a secret is both funny and authentic.

Available May 7.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher.

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