"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
July 3, 2012
Tuesdays at the Castle: Hogwarts has Met Its Match
by Erin Cowles

Jessica Day George's Tuesdays at the Castle was a finalist in the YA-speculative category in the recent Whitney Awards, and it is easy to see why: it is a charming middle grade novel with engaging characters and playful magic.

When her parents and older brother are ambushed and presumed dead, eleven-year-old Princess Celie and her siblings find themselves fighting against plots to steal the throne from her family. But Celie has a powerful ally in her struggle - Castle Glower.

Castle Glower is no ordinary castle. It is alive and constantly changing. It gets bored and grows new rooms on Tuesdays, when the king has to listen to petitions. It traps spies by removing the doors to their guest rooms, and moves the bedroom of its chosen heir to the throne next to the throne room.

Celie, the youngest of the four royal siblings, has dedicated the most time of anybody in the castle to learning its secrets. With that knowledge, she and the castle work together to locate her parents and vanquish their enemies. Celie is joined in her efforts by her clever and fast-on-his-feet brother Rolf and her proper and protective sister Lilah.

Celie is an enjoyable character. She is spunky, innovative, and capable. George writes her character without screaming "girl power!" at you while Celie saves the day, which many authors struggle (or don't even try) to do. No one doubts her capacity because of her gender or tries to keep her down based on it. And although Celie is the one with the key to the castle's heart, the victory belongs every bit as much to her brother and sister.

The human characters are well drawn, but the castle itself steals the show. For any kid that's ever dreamed of having a slide come out of his bedroom window, Castle Glower is a treat. Where Harry Potter's Hogwarts has its fun magical quirks, Castle Glower has a cohesive identity and preferences. I had a great time watching the way Celie and the castle interact and solve problems, and readers will enjoy the hijinks she and the castle pull on the villains.

George plans to make this the first book in a series, but don't worry - there are no cliffhangers. The novel stands on its own, so you won't have to feel anxious waiting for the next book to come out.

Read this book if …

  • You love imaginative settings, but dystopias leave you so depressed that you just want to nosh on chocolate ice cream and watch romantic comedies for the rest of your life.
  • You love strong female characters, but could do without having the "see, girls can do anything boys can do" message forced down your throat, thank you very much.
  • You hoped to stumble upon a secret passage in your home when you were a kid. Or you still occasionally look for trap doors in your laundry room (just in case).

Target Audience: Girls, ages 8-12. Boys would enjoy it if they can look past the girly cover art (which is a big if - it screams "novel for girls!").


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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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