Monday, April 18, 2011
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Tale of Two Castles
A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine (coming May 10, 2011 from HarperCollins, for ages 8 to 12).
Elodie (commonly known as Lodie) wants more than anything to be a mansioner, to act in a traveling group of actors who take their colorful wooden sets, or mansions, with them as they travel. But although she's twelve and old enough to apprentice, her poor farming parents don't have the money. She travels to the town of Two Castles by ferry, hoping to secure a free ten-year apprenticeship. She learns from Goodwife Celeste, who is also traveling to Two Castles, that free apprenticeships have been abolished.
What's Lodie to do? Could she handle assisting the mysterious dragon, Meenore, who sells toasted bread and cheese in the market square and also tries to solve mysteries? Would she be willing to work for the misunderstood ogre who lives in one of the castles? Or to serve greedy King Grenville and his flighty daughter who live in the other?
It's a joy to read a novel written by an author at the top of her form. This is as much fun as Ella Enchanted. You will fall in love with the smart and impulsive Elodie, with the medieval fantasy world Gail Carson Levine has created, and with some of the creatures who inhabit Two Castles. The medieval detective work is fascinating. Elodie learns to hone her talent for observation (which any good mansioner must have) and also to use the new skills of inductive and deductive reasoning.
The novel is rich in sensory detail. You'll want to eat an apple as badly as Lodie does when she first arrives in Two Castles, starving and alone. You'll shiver along with her when she's cold, and be warmed when she is. And you'll be just as intrigued by the mystery of the missing dog and the mystery of who is conspiring against Count Jonty Um, the ogre.
The publisher suggests this is for ages 8 to 12, but some younger readers may be a bit confused by the large cast of characters and the sophisticated language (although Levine is careful to explain phrases like "whited sepulchre"). I think I would have adored this book at the age of 9 or 10.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger. Go see what she has up her sleeve today.
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Ben Langhinrichs at My Comfy Chair
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
What marvelous books have you read recently?