Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Report/The Castle in the Attic, 1985


I'm not a very fast reader, and so sometimes it is a delight for me to read a juvenile or young adult book because I finish it quickly. I have the double pleasure of an enjoyable book and a quick read.

Recently there was an interview on Vermont Public Television with Elizabeth Winthrop. Her latest book, Counting on Grace has been Vermont's 2007 Community Reads choice. During the interview, she began talking about The Castle in the Attic, a book I remember being on our bookshelves when my children were young, and I wanted to read it.

William is a boy of ten, who is small for his age and does gymnastics. His parents are gone quite a bit and he is taken care of by Mrs. Phillips, a woman who has been with the family all his life. Now she plans to move to England to be with her brother. William is bereft. As a going away present, she gives him a toy castle which has been in her family for generations. It is beautifully made with all the features of a real castle. There is only one figure, though, the Silver Knight. Mrs. Phillips says there is a legend surrounding him:

He was thrown out of his kingdom long ago by an enemy of some sort, and it's said that one day he'll come back to life and return to reclaim his land. But the whole time I played with the castle, he was as stiff and cold as lead.

She goes on to tell him that family tradition says that "you're supposed to meet the Silver Knight on your own." And William does. When he picks him up, the little figure comes alive. This sets in motion a fantastical adventure, which seemed utterly real to me as I got caught up in the story. As all good children's books do, this one buoys up the young character. He faces problems and adversities, and must learn how to deal with them, using what is inside him.

The knight tells William:

The words my father said over me when I became a knight: rules of conduct we must respect, be we knight, squire, or page. Be compassionate to the needy. Neither squander wealth nor hoard it. Never lose your sense of shame. If questions are asked of you, answer them frankly but do not ask too many yourself. Be manly and of good cheer. Never kill a foe who is begging for mercy. Be ever loyal in love.

Pretty good words for any young or old reader to take to heart. This was a wonderful book and now I'm off to begin the sequel, The Battle for the Castle.

9 comments:

  1. This was one of the first books that the elementary school librarian recommended to me when my girl went to kindergarten and I began volunteering in her school library. Ruth Cook, the librarian, was wonderful and she introduced me to so many great authors and books. I loved this book!!!

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  2. What a nice, nice memory to have. And what a joy librarians are in our lives! Any other titles you remember?

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  3. Hmmmm....I know she told me to read Number the Stars (fabulous book), Ten Kids No Pets, Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved and more that I can't remember. I loved volunteering in her library.

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  4. Nan and Kay,

    And what a pleasure for me to stumble across this post about THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC. The breaking news is that Walden has just optioned the movie rights to the two books so maybe one day we'll see them on the big screen.

    Elizabeth Winthrop

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  5. I've set a Google alert for my name and the titles of some of my books and today I was directed to your blog.
    Elizabeth Winthrop

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  6. Elizabeth, what a wonderful thing to hear from you. I'm so honored. I loved your books so much and my daughter (who is about to turn 26) did as well. So pleased to hear about the optioning of the movie rights. It would be wonderful to see this book portrayed on the big screen. Again, thanks so much for commenting on my dear friend's (Nan) blog. I'm so excited!

    Nan, thanks for the heads-up!

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  7. Elizabeth, if you should happen back here, I want to thank you for your comment, and for letting me know how you find me. That is truly exciting news. I think they would make a terrific movie or two!

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  8. Nan and Kay, two devoted book readers out there in the blogging world.. what a lovely thing. My new novel COUNTING ON GRACE is one I would love to have you read and tell me what you think....the latest book is always an author's favorite as you can imagine. You can find more information at www.elizabethwinthrop.com.

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  9. I'm so tickled you wrote back! Maybe Kay and I can read Counting On Grace together!

    I wanted to be sure you saw that I also wrote about the second Castle book:
    http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2007/11/book-reportthe-battle-for-castle-1992.html

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.