Long long ago, and far far away, there was a castle, high on a hill….
For the royalty that live in the castle, life is not easy. The king, queen, and their three children are tired of always having duties and obligations, never able to do whatever they would like. Constantly dreaming of what it would be like to be a peasant, their sleepy lives are turned upside-down when a thief breaks into the castle and several things are stolen.
And there was a village, down in the valley….
Pia and Enzio, two peasants who have always worked hard for their master, have always wondered what it would be like to live in a castle, have lots of money, and never have to clean another dirty dish or make another watery stew or sweep another filthy floor. In other words, to be able to do whatever they liked. The never-ending pattern of chores is broken when they, too, are changed when they find a pouch, containing unusual contents that might change their lives forever and take them to places they never dreamed of.
To be honest, this is one of my favorite books to this day! Yet when I go to think about it, I can’t figure out precisely why. Maybe it is just because I am a huge fan of Jennifer Wiltsie, the narrator for the audio (which I highly, highly recommend!). This is the only book I have heard her narrate and she is, in my opinion, some of the most original and entertaining voices for the characters.
It is not exactly the deepest thing Sharon Creech has written. If you have read some of Sharon Creech’s other stuff like Walk Two Moons or The Wanderer, you may notice a pattern in her books: her main character is always a 13-year old girl who has something to prove or a journey to take. While this particular book went off her usual track, it still echoes the usual things she adds.
My sister doesn’t care for Sharon Creech’s other books, except for this one. She usually adds in a lot of symbolic ‘scenes’, if you will, but this one she chose a little more witty plot and chose to have a more subtle character change. Her characters have a lot less to prove, which helps, because character change wasn’t the whole plot like some of her other novels.
The characters are the real gem of the story. Very memorable (especially with Jennifer Wiltsie’s unique voices), they are so creative. For example, the King is constantly complaining about his itchy, heavy robe and just wants a nap. The queen just wants some privacy and a chance to love her children. The hermit, which is a stroke of genius and is one of the best parts of the story, gives out advice the shallow king never understands.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Audience: 6 and up (enjoyable for older kids as well).