Tuesdays at the Castle, the first of a planned series by Jessica Day George, has a premise that I was unable to resist. Princess Celie lives with her family in Castle Glower. Castle Glower is essentially alive, growing new rooms every Tuesday (and at other times, as needed by the family). Celie loves, and is loved by, the Castle. She spends her spare time working on an atlas of the ever-changing structure, and the Castle rewards her loyalty by helping her during trying times. When Celie's parents and oldest brother are attacked by bandits on a trip, reported missing and presumed dead, Celia, together with her two remaining siblings, must protect the Castle, and the crown, from threats inside and out.
Everything about the Castle is neat. It enlarges the rooms of people it likes, and turns the rooms of others into tiny cells. It creates a tower where Celia and her sister can hide safely, opening up special passages so that they can spy on the traitors within the Castle walls. When Celie is in a hurry, it turns a long twisty stairway into a slide for her.
But there is more to this book than an inventive setting. Celie and her siblings are surrounded by intrigue. It's not clear who they should trust, or what they should do to protect the Castle. The plot twists as much as the passageways of the Castle, and danger and adventure lie around every turn. Celie is a strong protagonist, loyal and determined, but also mischievous and fun-loving. A number of other characters are likeable and/or intriguing (particularly a rival Prince whose motives are unclear), if a bit over-the-top in some cases. You can picture this book more as an animated movie than as a live-action film, if that makes sense.
Here's a snippet or two of Jessica Day George's writing, to give you more of a feel for the book:
"Celie truly loved Castle Glower. She never minded being late for lessons because the corridor outside her room had become twice as long, and she certainly didn't mind the new room in the south wing that had a bouncy floor. Even if you could only get to it by climbing through the fireplace of the winter dining hall." (Page 2)
"The Castle didn't seem to care if you were descended from a royal line, or if you were brave and intelligent. No, Castle Glower picked kings based on some other criteria all its own. Celie's father, Glower the Seventy-ninth, was the tenth in their family to bear that name, a matter of tremendous pride throughout the land. His great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had become king when Glower the Sixty-ninth's only heir had turned out to be a nincompoop. Legend had it that the Castle had repeatedly steered the old king's barber to the throne room via a changing series of corridors for days until the Royal Council had him declared the next king..." (Page 3)
You have to love a book that uses the word "nincompoop", I think.
Tuesdays at the Castle is tremendously kid-friendly, with a fun setting, engaging (if not fully realistic) characters, and an action-packed plot. Recommended for middle grade readers, boys and girls, and for anyone, like me, who can't resist the idea of a living, growing Castle. I look forward to other books in this series (though this book does not end on any kind of a cliffhanger, and can definitely be read alone).
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@bwkids)
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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