by Elizabeth Winthrop, published 1987
“A truly courageous person is one who must first conquer fear within himself.”
What a relief to turn through the pages of this imaginative children’s book. I had just finished reading three fantasy books in a row, each of which filled me with unease, and I was beginning to think there were no more wonderful children’s books left to read! Of course that’s not true, but I was hungry for a great one. The Castle in the Attic totally satisfied me.
First, it has a wonderful mix of realism and fantasy. The realism is of a young boy feeling the impending loss of his anchor in life, a ‘nanny’ who had helped raise him. The fantasy– turning toy soldiers real, and turning people into small beings — is perfectly woven in. And throughout the book, the theme of learning to trust yourself, learning to find your own inner courage, is a splendid message.
The book is an easy read, and perfect for 8 to 10-year-olds, and very nice for boys. It’s probably a bit too easy for older children, but it is delightful from beginning to end. It also has enough of the Knights legend in it that will appeal to kids who enjoy anything related to those stories. There’s even a dragon!
Reading the book also made me realize what I look for in great children’s literature. I truly want to be led to another world that’s free of the kinds of stresses and fears our modern world offers. There’s no escaping the kinds of world we live in, so I read books to leave it behind for just a short while. This children’s book does a great job of lifting my spirits.