The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Wintrop

The Castle in the Attic - Elizabeth Winthrop

William is having a hard time adjusting. He's just found out that his beloved Mrs. Philips is leaving him to return home to London. She's been his companion since he was born, but now he's old enough to look after himself, and, hey, his parents are going to spend more time with him now. William is taking it so hard, because Mrs. Philips is family, but also because he's a bit of a loner, with only one friend not a British nanny, and - dare I say a - crybaby? I scrubbed away a lot of this characterization when I was little, so it was surprising to read it now. That is not why the book has faded for me. William's character, as atypical as it is for such an 'early' kids novel, is vital to the success of the story. His success is so much more meaningful knowing his struggles.

My problem was everything else. 'The Castle in the Attic' was full of mystery and magic, and I imagined myself exploring the castle, meeting Sir Simon, learning swordplay and, why not?, gymnastics. The prophecy was thrilling, the danger so clear. As an adult all of this faded into the simple language demanded at the time. The world William travels to didn't feel convincing, and the nanny problem seemed absurd to me. Has William never really bonded with his parents before this? Who would hire a nanny knowing that was the result? Winthrop likely didn't intend this, but it felt as if Mrs. Philips was responsible for coddling William and her presence isolated him most of the other children.

This is still a worthy book for kids, but I'm afraid its another one lost in the nostalgia wars.