Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (Whitney Finalist)
Author: Jessica Day George
Enjoyment Rating: 8/10
Referral: Whitney Finalist
Source: Library Copy
Books I've read this year: 32
Ranking my favorites in the Youth Speculative category is going to be hard. Really hard. I've read four of the five books in the category already, and I like ALL of them. I know that choosing between good books is much better than the alternative, and I'm really pleased to see such a strong, competitive category, but man, this is going to be hard.
When I brought home Tuesdays at the Castle, two of my kids immediately commented on it. Annie, my ten-year-old, looked excited and said, "Mom, that's the book that we donated to the library for my birthday" (our elementary schools have a program where you can pay to have a book donated in your child's name for their birthday, and the school chooses something they think the child would like). She said that there was a waiting list for the book, and I told her that I'd read it quickly so she could read it before I returned it to the library. Then Isaac, my seven-year-old, grabbed the book off the counter and said, "There are a bunch of second-graders at school who are reading this." That, of course, made Annie (a fifth-grader) want to have nothing to do with it anymore.
But I'm going to make her read it anyway, because it's just so cute.
Tuesdays at the Castle is the story of Celie, an eleven-year-old princess living in an enchanted castle. At times, the castle will grow rooms or do other kinds of magical things to improve the lives of the royal family, and it seems to have a soft spot for Celie. When her parents go on a journey to a neighboring kingdom and end up missing and her fourteen-year-old brother takes the throne, a whole slew of lords and princes from the surrounding lands descend on the castle to form a council, or a puppet monarchy, at least until he's old enough to run the kingdom by himself (not that they plan to let him live that long). So Celie, Bram, and their older sister, Lilah, along with lots of help from the castle, come up with a plan to oust them and find their parents.
The book is well-written and fun, and reads really fast. George did a great job of making Celie's world feel believable, without spending too much time on the world-building aspects of the story. But I also think that Annie had a point-- this is the one book in the bunch that is for a middle-grade (or even younger) audience, while the other finalists are all firmly YA. As a middle grade novel, I think it's a success, but the fact that it is middle grade also means that it's shorter, with bigger type and a simpler storyline. I think it's does a great job doing what it sets out to do, but I'm not sure how well it will stack up against its more complicated competitors.