The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio
by Lloyd Alexander
Recommended Ages: 12+
Carlo Chuchio, the orphaned nephew of a fat merchant on an island somewhat like pre-19th century Sicily, is widely considered a fool by those who know him. Impractical, accident-prone, and given to daydreaming, he is finally given his marching orders and sent to the mainland to make his own fortune, carrying with him a tattered book of tales in which he found a mysterious treasure map. He is joined on his search by a grumbling, idle camel puller, a wise old man, and a lovely but terribly serious girl who has sworn revenge on the slave merchant who abducted her, possibly after killing her whole family.
Together they witness deadly battles with bandits, explore caves painted by a hermit with the ability to see the future, purchase dreams, face seemingly certain death, and (in more than one couple's case) fall in love. Do they find the treasure? Well, that would be telling. All you need to know for now is that there is a laugh, a sigh, a thrill, or a gasp of wonder on every page.
This was the last book published by Lloyd Alexander, published in the year of his death, 2007. A winner of both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, he was the author of many folklore-based pieces of original fiction, including The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen, The Fortune-Tellers, The Arkadians, The Iron Ring, Gypsy Rizka, The Rope Trick, and the five-book "Chronicles of Prydain" series. I have loved many, many of his books, and there are still lots of them I haven't read yet, including the Westmark trilogy and the Vesper Holly sextet.