16 September 2007
When I started this blog I stated that there won't be many reviews. And that's still the case--I prefer this to be a forum for the discussion of children's literature as a whole, not just what's new and exciting (or new and dull.) But since I indicated that there are some books I am eager to read, I thought it was fair to let readers know what I thought of them, once my baited breath was exhaled. And I will start with the final offering by Lloyd Alexander who died on 15 May of this year (there have been some colossal losses in the world of children's literature in 2007!) And assuming there are no further posthumous offerings, this is a fitting way for Alexander to cap his career. The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio involves, like so many of Alexander's books, a road trip. In this case the road is a literal one. The infamous Golden Road is a highway oft travelled by traders in search of wealth, fools in search of treasure, and villains in search of ill gotten gains. The story starts in Magenta and ends in Keshavar, fictional stands-ins for Italy and the Middle East, respectively. Carlo Chuchio ('chuchio' is Magentian for 'jackass') is a naive young man who is tossed out of his Uncle's house when he makes one clerical error too many, costing his Uncle untold profit. Before he leaves, he visits a bookseller, who gives him a book of fantastic tales, which sound suspiciously like 1001 Arabian Nights. Hidden in the binding of the book, Carlo finds a treasure map. Spurred by his conscience, he attempts to return the map to the bookseller. However, the bookseller, his stall, and any knowledge of him has vanished. Carlo is free to travel and seek out the treasure for himself.
This book is vintage Lloyd Alexander. Along the way, Carlo is joined by a noble rogue, a beautiful girl with a secret, and a wise wanderer, all characters we have seen in his other books. It is amazing that Alexander has managed to tell the same story so many different ways over the course of his career. But if you think that life is the ultimate journey, perhaps it is not surprising that it is a theme Alexander has needed over two dozen books to explore. And unlike earlier offerings, there is not the bittersweet ending (I think particularly of The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha and The Beggar Queen.) Alexander has dedicated this one to "young dreamers, and old ones," and they will not be disappointed. Funny dialogue, clever plot twists, and the allure of treasure come together in a thoroughly satisfying package. When the book is closed on Carlo and his band of dreamers, there is the feeling that we are closing the book on the dreams of Lloyd Alexander as well, who was generous enough to share them with us in the first place.