Saturday, April 12, 2008

Elizabeth Winthrop

The Castle in the Attic
by Elizabeth Winthrop
Recommended Age: 10+

William is small for his age, and a bit lonely, but he has a gentle spirit. At least, that’s what Mrs. Phillips tells him. Mrs. Phillips has been with William’s family since he was born, taking care of him when his parents are at work, helping him practice his gymnastics routine, and giving him a shoulder to cry on.

Now William is 10 years old, old enough to take care of himself. Mrs. Phillips longs to go back to her native England. The time has come for her to leave. Her parting gift to the boy she has practically raised is a very special toy castle and a lone, lead knight.

But William does not want to let Mrs. Phillips go. And he gets his chance to make her stay when the lead knight comes to life in William’s hand. With the aid of a magic medallion, William shrinks Mrs. Phillips and sends her to live in the castle. Then he feels sorry for what he has done, and joins her there. Only it seems that, before they can return to their own world, William must go on an adventure in the world of the castle and the formerly-leaden knight.

Filled with the spirit of some of our favorite books by Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, and Lynne Reid Banks, this is an adventure of a modern boy in a medieval world – a fantasy of toys come to life – and a boy’s test of courage against a powerful wizard and many other magical perils. This present-day fairy tale is well told, and features a hero who will win your heart. When he does so, you may want to read the sequel, titled The Battle for the Castle.

The Battle for the Castle
by Elizabeth Winthrop
Recommended Age: 10+

Two years have passed since Mrs. Phillips went away. But as William turns twelve years old, he is still small, slight, and gentle-hearted. He still has the toy castle that Mrs. Phillips gave him when he turned ten, though he rarely plays with it now. He is still the star of the gymnastics team, but he isn’t sure he likes the sport any more. And he is more lonely than ever, as his only friend seems to have grown past him. When both boys attempt the local rite of passage called “jumping the trains,” Jason succeeds and William fails – making the difference between them even greater.

So when Mrs. Phillips sends him a magic medallion as his birthday present, William can’t resist inviting Jason to join him on an adventure. Using the medallion to shrink them both enough to enter the toy castle, William introduces Jason to an amazing world of magic, chivalry, and adventure.

Too soon, the friends are caught up in a crisis of deadly seriousness. A shadow of danger hangs over the land where the magic token leads them. Dire prophecies, a gruesome ship of death, and finally an army of flesh-eating rats threaten the lives of all. And because no one believes two boys from the future and a fiercely independent girl named Gudrin, when the danger reaches its peak only William can defend the castle.

This sequel to The Castle in the Attic is equally as effective as the original. Well-paced, well-told, and with a lovable young hero, it tells a touching tale about friendship and courage and the surprising shapes (and sizes) in which they can be found.

EDIT: Winthrop, whose great-great-uncle was U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, has written a book called Dear Mr. President. Her other juvenile fiction includes The Red-Hot Rattoons, Belinda's Hurricane, and Walking Away. She has also written many picture books for smaller children. Visit her website for more info.

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