Siblings Pia and Enzio have been slaving away for their master for years, dreaming of escape. Like most of the people in their village, they yearn to live beyond the banks of the Winono River at the Castle Corona, home to King Guido, Queen Gabriella and their children. This is not your typical royal family. They're spoiled, clueless and completely irresponsible, which makes them brilliantly funny characters. Living a starkly different lifestyle in the village below the castle are Pia and Enzio, a mysteriously beautiful pair whose admiration for one another is heartbreaking and lovely. Neither has any memories of their past, only that they've always been together. When returning home from fetching water one afternoon, Pia and Enzio find a leather pouch—a pouch that changes their lives. Eventually, these two families, though living opposing lifestyles, help each other learn more about themselves through a series of comical scenarios.
Sharon Creech, winner of the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons, creates an unpredictable storyline that emphasizes the importance of family—whether you're royal or not. Although the exact location of the village and castle are never given, Creech writes poetic and mystical descriptions of these places, painting a charming and magical picture of faraway lands. Her writing creates a place of impossible beauty, a setting young readers will melt into.
The Castle Corona is a story of royal proportions, offering readers a unique take on a classic fairytale; lovable, fascinating characters; and an intriguing, spirited plotline. Copyright 2007 BookPage 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.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2008 February
This title has a charm all its own. Newbery Award winner Sharon Creech cleverly weaves this tale of a king, his self-absorbed family, and two well-intended orphans. King Guido and his family roam the castle and the countryside looking to fulfill their purpose in life. Orphans Pia and Enzio discover a pouch filled with mysterious objects stolen from the castle and unsuccessfully try to return the pouch. They are abducted by the King's Men and taken to the Castle Corona. All mysteries and intrigue are resolved in the story told by the Wordsmith, with the help of a wise old woman and the king's hermit. Chapters alternate between the Castle Corona and the poverty-stricken town below. The reader is treated to the thoughts of the different characters as their lives are transformed through the surprising discoveries each makes. Chapters open with an illustration and border by Caldecott Award winner David Diaz. Diaz's signature dark outlines of brightly colored objects truly illuminate the story, leaving the reader to wonder what secrets they hold. Short chapters, smooth transitions, and liberal use of borders and white space make this a quick read, excellent for reluctant readers. This tale holds great magic for school and public libraries! Highly Recommended. Stephanie Bange, Children's Librarian, Wilmington-Stroop Branch, Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library Â© 2008 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
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[Page 146]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.