Goodreads: Tuesdays at the Castle
Summary: Princess Celie loves living in Castle Glower, where the rooms change every Tuesday and visitors can find themselves lost as the floor plans rearrange. Even so, she desires desperately to leave for a trip with her parents and feels no small anger when they refuse. When outsiders threaten to take over the kingdom, however, Celie’s presence proves invaluable, for only her knowledge of the castle can keep the crown from enemy hands.
Review: George’s foray into middle grade fiction proves a delightful and entertaining romp through a fantastical world seemingly governed by nothing more than the quirks of a magical castle. The premise itself—that a castle can live, think, and act on its own, having fun at the expense of its inhabitants and taking vengeance on those it dislikes by locking them in their rooms or giving them nothing more than a bare cell in which to live—strikes readers as startlingly new and daring. The story itself seems almost aware of its novelty, exulting in plot twists that would normally seem too ridiculous to bear and increasingly challenging readers to suspend their disbelief. In the end, the audience must cave; the exuberance in the absurd is too contagious.
Upon reflection, however, readers may conclude that what they first saw as silly actions on the part of the protagonists—eleven-year-old Celie and her slightly older brother and sister—may actually be realistic steps for them to take, considering their ages. Too often middle grade and even young adult books portray their characters as having almost unbelievable knowledge and skills. Thus, one immediately expects the royal children, who realize their kingdom is under attack, to take logical actions such as sending out emissaries for aid and rallying an army. Instead, they content themselves with taunting their enemies and playing practical jokes.
This, of course, seems preposterous. What army, the readers ask themselves, ever retreated because of some inconvenient jokes? Surely Celie and her siblings can do better. But, then again, what eleven-year-old immediately thinks of going to war? (And, if she did, who would follow her?) Maybe war is too easy an answer, maybe too much of an adult answer.
The only lingering question about questionable actions, then, remains centered on the adults of the story. George, of course, conveniently disposes of them so that the plot can focus on the children and they can act unhindered by parental concern for their safety. In the end, however, the contrivance seems too forced and thus unbelievable. A kingdom at stake and only three children to guard it? Maybe the throne should pass into other hands.
The great triumph of the story, however, does not lie with any of the human characters, but with the castle itself. Readers will come to love Castle Glower with all its whims and fancies as much as Celie does. The building truly seems to live, guarding those it loves and providing them with all that they need. Many more stories are clearly waiting to spring from this unique premise and readers will joyfully go along for the ride.
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