HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Enchanted Castle
Author: Edith Nesbit
Illustrator: H. R. Millar
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, reissued in 1995
Related website: www.penguin.com (publisher)
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 8-11
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Nesbit, Edith. The Enchanted Castle (originally published in 1907; republished in 1979 and reissued in 2004 by Puffin Books, a division of The Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Three children, Gerald, Jimmy, and Kathleen, have to spend their winter holiday at Kathleen’s school with a French governess, whom they call Mademoiselle, because their cousin Betty, who was to spend the holiday with them at their home and had arrived first, came down with measles. The three children seek adventure and find their way through a “cave” (actually an old railway tunnel) into a garden with an enchanted castle where they find a princess who turns out to be the daughter of the housekeeper at Lord Yalding’s estate. The girl, named Mabel, gives them a tour of the house. They find a secret room with many jewels, and Mabel puts on a ring that she says makes people invisible. And, although she thought that she was just pretending, she becomes invisible!
Gerald takes the ring and has his turn at being invisible too, during which time he sees statues in the garden come to life and also foils a robbery at the Yalding estate. And the ring accidentally passes to the housekeeper Eliza who becomes invisible for a time, much to the consternation of her gentleman friend. After that, someone suggests that the ring might grant wishesand it does. Mabel wishes that the “people” they had made to be an audience for their play were alive so they could applaud. They become alive but not real, just ugly-wugly collections of coats, umbrellas, hockey sticks, and masks. Jimmy then wishes he were richand becomes old and crotchety too. Next Mabel unintentionally wishes that she were four yards high, and Kathleen wishes that she were a statue so that she could be cool. What’s going on here? And who is that new bailiff who has come to oversee the Yalding estate?
Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) was an inventive writer of children’s stories in late nineteenth and early twentieth century England. C. S. Lewis said that she was his favorite fairy tale author. Two of her most famous books are The Railway Children and Five Children and It. A couple other well known books which she wrote are The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Magic City. We did The Enchanted Castle as a read aloud and enjoyed it. Those who are opposed to any kind of “magic” in books will want to avoid it. However, I must say that it is not the occult magic of witches and warlocks but the make-believe magic of fairy tales. When understood purely as fiction, I see no harm in it.