The Great Good Thing

The Great Good Thing (The Sylvie Cycle, #1)The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sylvie has been a twelve-year-old princess for more than eighty years, ever since the book she lives in was first printed. She’s the heroine, and her story is exciting — but that’s the trouble. Her story is always exciting in the same way. Sylvie longs to get away and explore the world outside the confines of her book.

When she breaks the cardinal rule of all storybook characters and looks up at the Reader, Sylvie begins a journey that not even she could have anticipated. And what she accomplishes goes beyond any great good thing she could have imagined…

My Review

Great family read aloud! I read this for the first time several years ago and remembered liking it. I could remember the very basics of the plot and characters, so when I spotted the book again while perusing our bookshelves I wanted to read it again to remember the details. I had been looking for something to read aloud with my kids that would be of interest to a wide span of ages, but also have substance, and possibly be something they may not pick up on their own. From what I could remember The Great Good Thing seemed like it would fit the bill nicely.

It was fun trying to explain to my kids what it was about when they asked. “Well…it’s about characters in a book.” The looks on their faces showed clearly the response, “Duh. That’s what all books are about.” “No really, it’s about characters in a book, in the book. And what they are doing when someone is not reading their book.” The light of understanding began to glimmer.

My description didn’t thrill them, but they were willing to let me read aloud the first chapter and then if they really hated it we’d choose something else. Let’s just say we read 3 chapters that first night. As my 11 and 13 year old daughters were heading off to bed after we finished reading I asked them what they thought. Their silence and little smirks told me all I needed to know. They were intrigued, but they couldn’t possibly admit to their mother that maybe I had been right about this book choice.

So we continued reading, and not one of us, from my 6 year old son to my 13 year old daughter, wanted to miss read aloud each night. It’s an easy read, but not boringly simple in plot, character development, or language. It’s such a satisfying fantasy to imagine favorite book characters as truly living in their own book world and being our friends to help us through good times and bad.

Age Recommendation: The Great Good Thing brings to mind fairy tales which we know and love at any age. For our family it was perfect for 6 years old and up.  If this were being read in a classroom setting or as an independent read I would suggest it for 3rd grade and older.

Appropriateness: Clean as can be. Nothing to worry about in this one. The Great Good Thing provides great classroom and/or book club discussion in relation to how aging and change is a necessary part of life, how creativity can help us deal with difficult circumstances, and what makes a person or an action “great” and/or “good.”

Other Book Recommendations: If you liked The Great Good Thing you might also like Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Frogkisser by Garth Nix, Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville, The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamilla, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand and Brodi Ashton, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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The Box

theboxcoverThe Box is a new children’s picture book by Yvette Cragun and illustrated by Alex Smith. I had the chance to read it before publication in a digital format in return for an honest review.

The first things I noticed about The Box were the bright and varied colors in the illustrations. Very eye catching.  Then as I began to read the text I loved how it jumps right in to the plot – A boy finds a big box and is excited about all of the paths of imagination it opens. This brings so many memories to my mind; I remember the day my parents bought a new fridge and how excited my sister and I were to have the box that the new fridge came in. It was our time machine, our cave, a house, an airplane, and more. We used to turn even smaller boxes into houses for dolls and stuffed animals.  I think most kids will be able to relate to the plot as well. If they haven’t yet had a the opportunity to have a big cardboard box to play with, they will be begging for one by the time they have finished reading this book.

I enjoyed the rhyme of the text; it tells the story naturally and flows well for the most part. When I read the book to my kids (ages 5-9) there was one line that confused them a little.  Toward the end there is a line that says “She [mom] doesn’t see it,” meaning she’s not on board with the boy moving in to the box and making it his new room. My kids weren’t sure what it was that the mom “didn’t see.” They thought maybe she couldn’t see the box. Other than that my girls understood the story very well and loved the colors. As I predicted, they wanted a big box to play with themselves after we finished reading.

If I were to be super picky I would have one criticism regarding the illustrations. As I already said, I loved the colors and overall I loved the look and feel. They look like crayon or colored pencil drawings which add to the theme of a child’s imagination. However, I thought the illustrations of the boys made them look too old. They looked tall and lanky like my 13 and 14 year old nephews who, unfortunately, by that age would not get much excitement out of a big box.  The perspective in the illustrations is not always perfect, but I actually like that as it adds to the child-like feel, but there is one illustration of the boy’s mom that has a more realistic perspective.  The drawing is well done, but I felt it didn’t fit as well with the more playful perspective of the other illustrations.

Overall, The Box was a satisfying journey of imagination. The storytelling flowed well and provided an entertaining arc and conclusion. I am a third-grade teacher and I look forward to reading The Box to my class and using it to prompt a creative writing project.  After reading the book I will have my students think of other simple items (like a box) that with a little imagination can be used in all kinds of ways. Then they can write a story or a poem describing all the different uses. Isabella’s Pink Umbrella by this same author would be another great book to use for this writing prompt.

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