Friday, June 10, 2016

Shiloh Run Press: The Glass Castle (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Celia reminds me of myself as a tween, right down to being a "read anything I can get my hands on" kid. When I was her age, I used to scour the library and book sales for something I hadn't already read or the next volume in a series. The only significant difference in book-hunting between me in 1986 and Celia in 2016 is that she doesn't have to leave the house to find something new to read. Either she downloads a book, or, if she's really lucky, one just appears, and I say, "Read this and tell me what you think." She was exceptionally lucky a month ago when an envelope from Shiloh Run Press, containing The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins found its way to our mailbox.

The Glass Castle is a fantasy/action novel. It begins as Avery, the main protagonist, is walking through the woods with her younger brother. Almost immediately, they are kidnapped and separated, and Avery is transported to the king’s castle, where she finds herself in a covey of abducted children. The king is in search of his long-lost son; the soon-to-be-queen decides that to keep him lost, she'll dispose of every child the son's age.  Avery and the other children band together to ensure their survival.

When she was about halfway through, I asked Celia what she thought of the story. I'll sum up her fifteen-minute dissertation: she loved it. She thought, "There was a lot of suspense, but not too much so you give up, and lots of characters, but not so many that you get them confused."  This novel is the first in a series, which makes Celia very excited. Much like me when I find a new series, she is frustrated she can't binge read them; sequel The Ruby Moon won't be released until October 2016. I asked her if she thought she would still like to read that book, and Celia said she would, saying this story was so good that she thought she'd still remember what happened and would not be confused when we got the next one. (I think that was a very thinly veiled hint.) In addition to borrowing a Bible to read, Avery borrows Great Expectations and Gulliver's Travels. I think I know what Celia will be reading while she waits.

There are biblical tones to this story, both underlying and overt. (This is not unexpected since Shiloh Run Press is a new subsidiary imprint of Christian publishing giant Barbour Press.) However, they are well-placed, contextual to the story, and in line with characters' personalities. We each have read several Christian novels and agree that when hymns and Bible lessons propel the story forward, this can be effective because it provides insight into the character. Just dropping verses in to "prove" a book to be "Christian literature" has put us off of a few books because they seem to be the author proselytizing the readers, not the characters telling a story. Priebe and Jenkins skillfully use scripture and worship as tools of character exposition and change.

The book is written for children ages 10 to 14 (approximately fifth through eighth grades). I think it is just right. It contains 41 chapters, but they are short -- less than ten pages each, and many only five or six pages. It is suitable for "I can read a few pages here and there," which is good for "Just one more chapter before I have to turn off the light!" Celia also took it to school with her and found the short chapters were good for when she finished something early (like a test) and needed something to keep her occupied.

I read a description of the book that described this as “the setting of Chronicles of Narnia meets the adventure of Alice in Wonderland.” I think this is an apt portrayal -- the wonder and the seeming chaos blend into a new classic story that launches a new classic series for middle-schoolers.  To find out more about Barbor Publishing/Shiloh Run Press and The Glass Castle, follow them on social media, or click the banner below for more reviews. You can also preview the first few chapters of the book by clicking here: The Glass Castle Preview, and be sure to look for The Ruby Moon in October 2016.


The Ruby Moon

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

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