This week I stepped into a fantasy novel for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I needed a bit of a fun read and The Castle in the Mist was just that. This little book was written by Amy Ephron. You might know her from several adult novels but this is her first work of fiction for young people.
We have two young kids who are staying with their Aunt over the summer break. Dad is a war reporter out on assignment and Mom is back in the U.S recovering from an illness. This summer with the Aunt has these two children feeling a bit lost and disconnected from family, friends and they world that is familiar to them. Tess, the older sister, goes off exploring to find an old brass key that lets her into a neighbors large castle. All seems a bit magical and unreal as Tess meets William, the young man living there with only the hired help in this huge home.
Tess leads her brother into the magical home to share in the fun and a little adventure. Although everything is great it seems just a bit to perfect or magical to be real. There is a carousel that runs on wishes, a horse that seems to jump off of the carousel to become real and dreams appear to come to life. Neither child can quite figure out what is going on and perfect never stays perfect for long – things go awry and it is up to Tess to make the world right again.
It is a fun read but a very simplistic tale following an old pattern of fantasy books and time travel. There are moments where the author has made some leaps that are a bit hard to follow or accept as an adult reader but third or fourth graders would follow right along I am sure.
If your classroom is studying different genres and students are looking for a new fantasy read this might be just the thing. It includes all the elements of a fantasy and is a quick read. I think this book will appeal more towards students that like make believe, magical horses and just a little bit of adventure.