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.

Other regulars:

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?


  1. The first couple of pages of this didn't do much for me, but I will look at it again since you liked it so much!

  2. Sounds great. I'll add it to by list. I loved Ella Enchanted.

  3. This sounds like a charming book.

    I'm almost done with Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Sara Bennett Wealer's Rival. I love contemporary YA.

  4. 1. We love Levine at the Miller house!

    2. Thanks for helping to give Middle Grade some exposure!

  5. Hi Ms. Yingling. Yes, I could see why you thought the first few pages were slow. But it gets MUCH more interesting when she arrives at Two Castles. Thanks for commenting.

    Thanks for stopping by, Natalie.

    It is charming, Medeia. Oh, and I found 13 Reasons Why powerful, yet disturbing (rightly so). Yours is the first recommendation I've heard for Rival. I'll have to add that one to my TBR list. Thanks.

    Thanks, Anita! I love Levine too!

  6. Thanks for the heads up on this one! I'm looking forward to reading it and then getting for the library.

  7. I'm definitely going to have to check it out. I LOVED Ella Enchanted and Gail.

  8. I've wondered about this book, great review. I'll have to add it to my TBR pile. I really enjoyed Ella Enchanted.

  9. I'll have to put it on my To Read list, thanks for the post!

  10. I loved meeting Gail Carson Levine last summer at SCBWI. She's such an amazing writer. I'll have to look for this one.

  11. Ooo, Sherrie, you're so lucky! I'd love to meet her.

    Hope you do get it for your library, Deb.

    Thanks Stina, Brooke,and Jenny. Sorry to add to your TBR pile!


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