A children's book blog by Miriam Rainwater

A children's book blog by Miriam Rainwater

"TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book." ~ Author Unknown

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two CastlesThe dragon stood on IT's back legs.  "I will return at the nine-o'clock bells tonight.  As soon as His Lordship's guests arrive, remain with him."  IT flapped IT's wings.  "Do not let him out of your sight.  Trust no one.  Keep him safe."
How could a girl keep an ogre safe?
IT circled above me.  "You can shout.  A person half your size can shout.  Act!"

In this new book from Gail Carson Levine (the author of the Newberry-Honor-winning Ella Enchanted), Elodie is on an unpredictable adventure. An assistant to a dragon, a spy in disguise, cupbearer for an ogre?  Only A Tale of Two Castles (from Harper Collins on May 10, 2011) can allow Elodie to do all of those.

Elodie wants to be a mansioner, but the master rejects her as an apprentice.  All alone in a foreign city, what will she do to survive?  This city of Two Castles is full to the rim with strange things, including a form-shifting ogre who changes into a crazy monkey or a mouse or a lion, trained cats that steal and stalk, and someone who keeps stealing and poisoning people.  Can Elodie discover who is in the wrong and who she can trust?

A Tale of Two Castles does an excellent job illustrating that a person's looks or prestige are not what makes them trustworthy, kind, or great.  Character is a matter of the heart.  Elodie also gives great insight into what it means to act a certain way versus to BE a certain way. Elodie also learns that it's not right to be quick to judge and throw blame on others; you must study facts and induce and deduce only from truth and common sense (younger readers may need a definition of the difference between these two words). Greed is troublesome and being a giver is joy-bearing.  The ending comes as a surprise but holds a lot of truth.  You have to stick with those who you know to be true, honorable, and warmhearted even if the less-noble way tries to draw you in. 

There was one negative element, which is why I'm giving this book a four out of five  Elodie's parents send her to Two Castles with instructions to apprentice herself to a weaver.  She decides that she will ignore them and run her own life.  While things end up that she would not have been able to apprentice as a weaver, after all, she still disrespects her parent's advice. Because you know that your twelve-year-olds are not really ready for life's decisions without wise counsel from adults, you might want to bring this up.  I would have preferred that she would have discussed this with her parents rather than just throw their advice to the wind as soon as she sets sail. 

A Tale of Two Castles was a great twist on the traditional princess/castle/dragon stories. It seemed to have a few more deep lessons and a lot of laughter.  When I laughed aloud within the first page, I knew I had a great book. This would be a great family read-aloud.

What will happen to the ogre if the village cats turn him into a mouse?  Can Elodie help him, escape from prison, and save the kingdom at the same time?

1 comment:

  1. I read Ella Enchanted a few months ago, and I have to say, it's one of those rare instances where I liked the movie better. Of course the two had barely anything in common save the initial premise.