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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12 thoughts on “Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George”
Sounds so good! I really love most of the books you guys review, they sound like my kind of books!
I’m so glad you enjoy our reviews! This book was really cute and I thought I saw it might become a series, so I’m hoping for more!
I agree, it was a bit farfetched with the children defending the castle like that, but I think that’s one of those things that I would have loved as a kid. R. L. LaFevers said something about how her Theodosia books are imagined from the perspective of a MG kid, and when you’re young like that of course you think you’re far more clever and able than the silly adults around you! I like that approach, and that’s how I read Tuesdays at the Castle.
On a side note, I see you’re reading The Spy Princess! I’m so excited for you! I think that’s my number one most coveted book right now. I adore Crown Duel! How are you liking The Spy Princess so far?
I’m the one reading The Spy Princess. I really like Crown Duel and I loved A Posse of Princesses when I read it (relatively) recently, but I’m having a lot of trouble getting into The Spy Princess for some reason. So far I’ve found that once I’ve gotten past the part that came off as the “main” plot in the summary (the revolution), it’s gotten more interesting. So I’ll see how it goes from here!
Oh no! I loved Crown Duel but I only liked A Posse of Princesses, and so I keep bouncing The Spy Princess back and forth in my head (will I love it? will I like it? I hope I love it. Ooh, but what if I only like it….) I’m very interested in your review when you’re done. Hopefully it picks up.
The tentative review date is July 30, so I’m really striving to finish it before then. I got caught up in the Graceling trilogy, though. While I do think the book is improving, I’m worried by the fact that I evidently prefer to read other books. And I’m starting to wish I had taken notes since it’s taking me such a long time to finish.
Oh, definitely if I were the intended age range for this book, I’d love it without question. It just seemed so odd at first when the majority of books feature eleven-year-olds with diplomatic and weapons skills that surpass those of every other character. That’s great advice from LaFevers, however. (And I am eagerly going through her Theodosia books!) It creates a much more realistic feel. After all, I think it would be hard for a sixth grader to relate to a fighting machine, but surely one could imagine himself in the shoes of Princess Celie and her siblings. You can be friends with someone like Princess Celie or her siblings.
And, frankly, as I get older, I’m just getting tired of seeing stories where the children are always right and the adults are always wrong. That has happened so seldom in my own experience. It’s nice to see authors who recognize that children are clever, bold, and resourceful–but still have limitations.
Briana is the one reading The Spy Princess, but I have finally read Crown Duel (years after the rest of the fantasy-loving world, I gather), so there should be a review coming up! As in, August or September. I’m not really sure at the moment. But I liked it very much and wouldn’t mind reading more of Smith!
Yes, exactly! Celie and her siblings are very approachable.
I agree too about getting tired of the 100% right kids and their misguided adults. I did like how Stephanie Burgis addressed this a little in her second Kat book. Kat’s a little older there and she’s just starting to see that maybe the adults in her life are a lot more aware and on top of things than she had originally given them credit for. And, as you said, it is nice to see authors recognize the cleverness of children, but also give them realistic expectations (I love it when Theodosia occasionally acts like the child she is).
Can’t wait to read your Crown Duel review!
I’d never heard of Stephanie Burgis, but after looking up her Kat books, I’ve added them to my to-be-read list! They seem as if they’ll be quite fun!
Stephanie Burgis is great. If you’re enjoying the Theodosia books, then you’ll definitely like Kat. 🙂
After reading Tuesdays at the Castle, I think the children’s approach to getting rid of their enemies (playing practical jokes) makes more sense if we think of it as a delaying tactic. Keep them annoyed and unfocused until the real help can arrive! (And don’t annoy them too much because then they might actually kill someone.) I’m not sure that’s entirely what the children were going for when they started their antics, but it works out that way, at least a bit. (On the other hand, I do think the children found themselves quite clever!)
Interesting theory. I suppose that could make sense, though I would have expected them to make more of an effort to get outside help faster if all that stands between them and disaster are a few practical jokes. 😉