The Castle in the Attic — "The Castle in the Attic" Series
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first of two books about "The Castle in the Attic."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
When 10-year-old William's beloved housekeeper decides to return to England, William is disappointed and desperately wants her to stay. Elinore Phillips has been the Lawrence family's housekeeper since William was a baby, and she and William have a close relationship. As a goodbye present, but before she actually leaves, Elinore gives William a family heirloom — a miniature stone and wooden castle that has been passed down in her family for generations.
Later that evening, as William plays with the castle and its metal knight, William's touch brings the miniature knight to life. Sir Simon tells William about the kingdom he came from, how the wizard Alastor robbed him of his kingdom and how he ended up in the castle as a metal toy knight. Now that he is alive again, Sir Simon wants to return to his kingdom and take it back from Alastor.
William doesn't tell his parents or friends about Sir Simon; he tries to tell Elinore about talking with Sir Simon, but she thinks the knight is still just a metal toy. In the castle, Sir Simon practices his swordsmanship skills. When Williams asks Sir Simon about his plans for getting back to the kingdom, Sir Simon shows William a riddle written above the door about a lady, a squire and a knight going on a quest. Sir Simon isn't sure who the lady and the squire will be, or when it will be time to go, but wants to be prepared.
William still wants to find a way to keep Elinore from returning to England. When he and Sir Simon discover that Sir Simon's token can be used to shrink things, William has an idea. Using this token that once belonged to Alastor, William shrinks Elinore and puts her in the castle with Sir Simon. Elinore is not happy about this, but unfortunately William and Sir Simon aren't able to return Elinore to her true size without the other half of the token, which Alastor still has. Elinore decides not to speak to William until William comes into the castle. As William wrestles with what to do, he also talks with Sir Simon. Sir Simon reminds William of the riddle on the wall. The knight and the lady are in the castle; now they just need the squire. William decides to shrink himself and enter the castle.
Once there, he apologizes to Elinore, and then trains with Sir Simon for the journey back to Sir Simon's kingdom. William packs a backpack with tools and supplies for the journey, and Sir Simon leaves the token with Elinore.
When Sir Simon is fooled by a mirage in the forest, William is left to continue the journey on his own. Using his wits and the tools in his backpack, he makes it safely through the forest and to the castle. William successfully battles the dragon guarding the castle and applies for a job entertaining Alastor. In the castle gallery, William sees people, including Sir Simon, who have been turned into metal statues by Alastor. To do this, Alastor used a token to put a spell on them.
William realizes it is up to him to save the kingdom, which is suffering from a famine and has a dangerous forest because of Alastor. As William entertains Alastor with gymnastic routines, he watches for the right time to battle for the kingdom. When the opportunity comes, William is ready. He knocks Alastor down, takes his token necklace and destroys the mirror Alastor used to reveal other people's inner secrets. Sir Simon's childhood nurse, who is in the castle with Alastor, uses one of the tokens to turn Alastor to metal and send him to the toy castle in William's attic.
William brings Sir Simon and the rest of the statues to life. Because Alastor's spells are broken, the forest is no longer dangerous, and the famine ends. Sir Simon takes his place in the kingdom, family and friends are reunited, and laughter and rejoicing return to the kingdom.
Sir Simon gives one of Alastor's tokens to William to take back with him. It matches the half Elinore is keeping, so she and William can use the tokens to return to their own world. William leaves another of Alastor's tokens — a disk of destruction — with Sir Simon.
After a celebratory feast, William returns home. Elinore is waiting in the castle. They leave the castle together, turn each other back to their normal size and walk to the bus station. Elinore keeps the metal statue of Alastor and the token. William returns home for dinner with his father.
God, the Devil, heaven, hell and the concepts of good and evil are referenced in the story. Sir Simon fasts and prays in the castle chapel the night before he and William leave on their journey. The chapel in the castle is referred to as a holy place. As they get ready to depart, Sir William asks Elinore to give them a blessing. William plays the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" on his recorder during the journey, and words of the song are incorporated into the text.
Other Belief Systems
Magic is a prominent aspect of this book. Alastor is a wizard and casts spells on people. Sir Simon refers to Alastor's token as a magic token that has evil magical powers on one side. Alastor sometimes asks Sir Simon to help him make potions and salves for stomachaches and bone injuries. When Elinore tries to explain something to William, she references the world of magic and compares it to the natural world. The townspeople believe that magic is the tool Alastor used to defeat Sir Simon. Lord Luck, good luck charms and luck in general are also referenced in the story.
William battles the dragon guarding the castle and stabs it. The blow is described, but it is not graphic. William uses a gymnastic routine to knock Alastor down.
Sir Simon kisses Elinore's hand.
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Readability Age Range
10 to 13
Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.
California Young Reader Medal Winner, 1989; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Winner, 1987