Reviews for Castle Corona

Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
In a departure for Creech, whose previous novels have all been set in the present day, the Newbery Medal winner offers a good-hearted, gently comic fairy tale set in feudal Italy. Using parallel stories that eventually dovetail, Creech introduces the Castle Corona's sheltered, slightly ridiculous royal family and Pia and Enzio, orphaned peasant children from the nearby village. Brief, cleverly paced episodes reveal that several fixtures of castle life--the king and queen's respective hermit advisors, and the court storyteller--subtly engineer Pia and Enzio's appointment as royal food tasters, for purposes linked to a stolen pouch found by the children early on. The novel's many characters are more allegorical than flesh-and-blood, and the hasty revelations at story's end don't entirely satisfy. But the engaging, puzzlelike plot will attract readers, as the novel's heady themes, from wisdom to empathy to the fate-changing power of story, prompt them to deeper thought. Diaz's full-color chapter-heading artwork and ornamental flourishes lend the novel substantial aesthetic appeal. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #6
A king and a queen, three royal children, two peasant children, and a hermit are the main characters in Creech's lush fairy tale. Pia and Enzio, the peasant children, long for the rich life the royal children lead, since their own consists of hard work and hunger under a cruel master who refers to them as "dirty beetles." None of the castle inhabitants, however, are much pleased with his or her own circumstances, either: King Guido hates his itchy gold robes and wishes he could take a nap; Queen Gabriella sits on her gilded throne and wonders why her life is made up entirely of trivialities; and the two princes and the princess are bored and restless as well. The story begins when a mysterious rider in black drops a pouch adorned with the royal seal; Pia and Enzio find it and must decide what to do with it. Creech weaves her many characters into a delicate tapestry, with precise language and recurring motifs of birds and snakes, echoed by Diaz's small color pictures at the beginning of each chapter, which repeat as well. It's disappointing that after over 300 pages, the ending contains no real surprises and is even a bit "muddled," as the princess says. Still, the book's physical prettiness and Creech's always-evocative writing make it a pleasant foray into a fairy-tale world where life is rendered into story. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 September #1
Long ago and far away a royal pouch was dropped in the woods; King Guido became afraid of thieves and poisoners; the peasant children Enzio and Pia became tasters for the king's family; and the contents of the pouch they found revealed their true identities. This lengthy original fairy tale is immensely satisfying both in its telling and its presentation. Each of the three sections begins with a full-page color illustration and each chapter with decorated initial letters and a miniature suggesting the subject. Heavy paper and relatively large, leaded type are two of many sumptuous details that continue throughout. Told in a comforting storyteller's voice (perhaps that of Pia, inspired by the royal family's Wordsmith), the tale unfolds leisurely, with considerable attention to the royal surroundings. Characters are clearly delineated, with the suggestion that all of them, the king and queen, the heir, the spare prince and the spoiled princess, as well as the peasant children, have grown and changed as a result of the events described. A treat for fans of the genre as well as a captivating introduction to it. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 September #3
colorfully adorned with intricate designs that loosely recall illuminated manuscripts, Newbery Medalist Creech's (Walk Two Moons) protracted fairy tale traces how two orphaned peasants come to rub elbows with royalty. "Long ago and far away," Pia and her younger brother, Enzio, discover a leather pouch marked with the king's seal. Before they can understand the meaning of the objects inside, the two children are whisked off to the Castle Corona to become "tasters" for a king fearful of being poisoned. There Pia and Enzio become acquainted with a spoiled princess and two young princes (one dreams of being a poet; the other wants to become a mighty warrior). As befits the genre, the author uses broader strokes than usual to define her characters. Members of the royal family are hopelessly out of touch with their subjects and busy themselves with tradition. Country folk and castle servants are more grounded and resourceful. Nonetheless, as royalty and peasant children intermingle inside the castle walls, perspectives broaden and the complexity of individual personalities comes to light. The playful tone and gentle criticism of aristocracy can be engaging, in much the same way that Creech's warmth and easy humor work well in her slice-of-life novels, but the fairy-tale genre raises expectations that go unmet. Readers may pine for a liberal sprinkling of magic and a more exciting climax before the conventional happily-ever-after ending. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 October

Gr 3-6-- Creech has created a story in the style of a classic fairy tale, but one without fairies or witches or magic. It does have two orphans, Pia and Enzio, whose master calls them "dirty beetles"; a king and queen with three children--each of whom is a caricature of a typical royal offspring; two hermits; and a storyteller. Stories are important royal entertainment, but they also fill (and fuel) the imagination of the orphans, the royal siblings, and even the king himself. When Pia and Enzio find a stolen pouch filled with an odd assortment of items that seem to belong to the king, they are drawn into an adventure that brings them to the castle, where instead of being thrown into the dungeon as they feared, they are made tasters to His Highness. The king's imagination has run wild since he heard that a thief is on the loose in his kingdom, and it was suggested that he might be in danger. Since Pia and Enzio have not been taught to behave as servants, they don't. It's all a good-natured, rollicking romp with all of the parties learning a great deal about themselves, and, in the end, the Castle Corona is a livelier and more interesting place. Creech plays with the fairy-tale form and makes it her own, exaggerating here and there, using creative language, and poking fun at stuffiness and pretension. Diaz's illustrations capture the feeling of medieval illuminations, and their formal stiffness is a perfect counterpoint to Creech's satisfying tale.--Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA

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VOYA Reviews 2007 December
Enzio and Pia, orphaned servants to the foul-tempered Pangini, survive on daydreams of life in the nearby castle. One day, they find a pouch marked with the King's seal. As talk of a thief fills the village, the children decide to turn the pouch over to the wise old woman, Ferrelli. Before they can do so, the children and Ferrelli are taken away by the King's Men. Bored with her life, the Queen has brought Ferrelli to the castle to help her find meaning. Afraid of the thief, the King commandeers the children as food tasters to prevent his being poisoned. The peasants' behavior causes the royal family to question life in the castle. Ultimately it is revealed that Pia and Enzio are the grandchildren of the King's hermit and that the Queen was once a peasant herself. The story concludes with possibilities: "The King and Queen lay awake wondering if the castle gates could be opened to the villagers From its "Once there was a Castle" opening to its stereotypical royalty-"a Prince who loved poetry, a Princess who loved herself, and a Spare Prince who loved his sword"-this book is clearly a fairy tale. But its convergence of parallel plots and its questioning of wealth and of poverty make it more complex than most. There is also enough silliness to make the reader laugh. With its engaging story line and beautiful illustrations, this book should captivate most middle school readers.-Christine Sanderson PLB $19.89. ISBN 978-0-06-084622-0. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.