Tuesdays at the Castle reaffirms why I simply love Jessica Day George. Like, seriously folks. This book was just so much the cuteness and I want to hug it. (Don't worry Misty from The Book Rat... I refrained from displays of affection with your book, but only just.)
Castle Glower likes to change. When it gets bored, it adds rooms, removes them, moves things around or just plain messes with your head. It's pretty clear about who it likes and who it doesn't, and the Castle chooses its own King.
Celie is 11 and she loves the Castle. She's decided to do what no one has previously done, and draw an atlas of it. She spends hours and hours exploring, making sure to note any changes, not matter how small and she treats the Castle like a person. Which, ends up being a really awesome benefit when her parents are missing, presumed dead (in an ambush) and nefarious things start happening, led by the people in the Castle. The three royal children at home — Celie, the youngest, Rolf, the 2nd son and heir to the throne (so decrees the Castle) and Lilah, the elder sister — are left to try and protect the Castle, preserve their family and save the kingdom. It's an awful lot to put on the shoulders of children, but they are extraordinary and rise to the challenge.
One of things that I loved about this book was the characters. All of them. They are just so, realistic. Celie is 11, but because of their situation, she has to do a lot of things that are much more grown up. But guess what guys — She still acts like a kid! She is as strong and mature as is possible for her to be, but she still wants to stick her tongue out at the bad guys, stomp her feet and say really witty and cutting stuff like — You are a poopoo face. And she also does stuff like stay up late setting up pranks on the bad folks and then being beyond exhausted and falling asleep pretty much mid-sentence.
Rolf has the most pressure of any of the other characters placed on him. As heir to the throne, when the King goes missing, the running of the country is left to him. But he is only 14, and as you can imagine — the aforementioned nefariots try to use this to their advantage and force him to do their bidding. He's a strong enough person, even at 14, that he recognizes this and does all he can to put a stop to it, but there really is only so much a 14 year old can do against a large group of adults, especially when you aren't completely certain they aren't going to try and kill you. Lilah is also under a lot of pressure, because she feels responsible for the well-being of her siblings, especially young Celie. There is a lot going on and Lilah knows she can't really protect her siblings, but she wants to and she does all she can to help them.
But, perhaps the best and most complex character in all the novel is the Castle itself. (Notice how I keep capitalizing Castle? Ya... That's intentional. I don't want it turn my room into a pigsty or something... : P) The Castle is able to know and to sense things. It knows who will make a great King, who wishes the King, Castle or country ill, and who is an ally. And it makes it obvious. If it likes you, the Castle will give you beautiful and comfortable rooms, but if it doesn't, you are lucky if your bed is big enough to hold your body. You might find it impossible to find your way through corridors, or suddenly in a room without a door. Or, the Castle finds good favor with you, things that you need might suddenly appear, or you find a new corridor that makes it quick and easy to get to the other side of the Castle. I loved watching Celie learn about the Castle and explore. And I loved that when the kids suddenly needed a lot of help, but didn't know who they could turn to, the Castle was there, totally prepared and ready to offer assistance to the children.
The only complaint that I had with this story is that the ending felt super rushed. I'm not horribly disappointed in it, because this seems to be the nature of a lot of MG books (and a lot of YA too) where the story is in the set up and the journey there and once you actually get there, it's just a real quick resolution to finish things off. But honestly, this resolution was so fast as to almost be a — You blink and you've missed it — type thing. In a 232 page book, the resolution to the main problem should take more than 8 pages and a few paragraphs of explanation.
Regardless, this is one of those books that will be read and absolutely loved by kids. What kid doesn't love the idea of being able to completely outsmart all the grown ups?! I know that 10 year old Ashley would have fervently believed in this book. And what better magical element could you possibly wish for than a Castle that is never the same twice, especially when you happen to be the Castle's especial favorite. But the book isn't only for kids, and I have a hard time believing that there will be anyone who isn't just swept away by the delightful cuteness of this book. I mean, seriously.