February’s Reading Challenge was “your favorite childhood book with chapters.” No picking “Goodnight, Moon,” or “Harold and the Purple Crayon” for this one.
My February pick was “The Castle in the Attic” by Elizabeth Winthrop. It’s not the best chapter book ever, but I read it over and over again as a kid. I think my copy (still a box somewhere in my mom’s attic) was from a book fair or one of those book sale flier things. In short, it’s the story of a boy, a knight, a castle and an evil wizard. Good triumphs not because of might but because of who the boy is and his unique skills. I think that’s why I liked it as a kid. I reread the whole book in a day.
Bonus book: I learned that there was a sequel! Winthrop released it nearly 10 years after “Castle” which is why I probably missed it as a kid. I read right on from “The Castle in the Attic” to “The Battle for the Castle.” Battle wasn’t as good, but part of that was the lack of nostalgia. I didn’t have the memory of reading the book to draw on this time. It was enjoyable, but not the same.
The premise is that a young girl, Winnie aged 11, discovers a family that is trapped in time after they drank from a spring 80 some years ago that resides on her family’s land. There are complications, like another person also uncovers the secret, a potential kidnapping, and a murder. It’s a complicated story to tell in less than 150 pages, but the author does it well.
The story was just as charming and delightful and sad as the first time I read it. I had the same mix of feelings that Winnie ends-up making both the right (and the wrong) decision.
As an adult I noticed something that I didn’t notice as a kid: Winnie is a afraid of too many things. She bases too many things on what she is afraid of. I want to believe that her encounter with the Tucks changes that and she becomes confident in her world. But the author doesn’t tell us that. I kinda like the lack of direction so that I can decide for myself.
Next up for March: Read a 2014 Award winner. You pick which Award (Pulitzer, Man Booker, Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Hugo, Nebula, Indiana Authors Award, Word Nerds Best Of, you name it). If you want to read a shorter book, we’d recommend steering clear of those first two categories.