________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 13 . . . . March 2, 2001

cover The Castle Key.

Karen Krossing.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2000.
170 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 0-929141-76-8.

Grades 4 - 7 / Ages 9 - 12.

Review by Paulette Leclerc.

**** /4


What was this place? Who were these people? Was this magic? Wonder and excitement flooded through me. I didn't want to do anything to break the spell. 'Trust the magic,' I thought to myself. I tried to relax and memorize every detail.

But the girl's face-I knew that face. Sky-blue eyes. Slender, pointed nose. Even the same tinkle of laughter like a song. Then I saw the sapphire-blue brooch that fastened her cloak. As big as a dollar coin, the sapphire dazzled against the white of her throat. It was just like the sapphire ring my mother had given me.

The Castle Key is Karen Krossing's first novel for young readers. Its central character, 12-year-old Moon, lives with her father after her mother suddenly vanishes. With the help of her friend Duncan, she tries to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance.

      A magical premonition leads Moon to a strange key in the office of Mrs. Tanglemoth, the school library "witch." This magic key allows Moon to observe events from the past during medieval times. When she holds the key, she witnesses events from the life of a young girl, Nora, who bears a strong resemblance to Moon's mother. Readers follow Moon's progress as she tries to piece together the clues: the loss of the blue sapphire ring which was given to her on her twelfth birthday by her mother, the castle key found in the library, her mother's sudden disappearance, and her visions of Nora. What is their connection?

      Readers will sympathize with Moon and will want her to succeed in her plight. The elements of intrigue, magic, suspense and action keep the reader glued to the page. The creative use of flashbacks via the key entice the reader into trying to solve the mystery before the protagonist. Though there are fantastic events surrounding the ghost of Nora and the key, Krossing has managed to give realistic explanations as to the disappearance of the ring and Moon's mother. The author forces her characters to research Moon's visions from the past. Moon and Duncan surf the web to find helpful information about Nora's life. Krossing was able to include a modern search for the youngsters and, therefore, has made the story more life-like.

      This book of fantasy and mystery will delight and entertain students, especially those interested in magic. Readers will be captivated by Moon's determination to find her mother. The Castle Key would be a welcome addition to any elementary library or classroom collection. Do you believe in magic?

Highly Recommended.

Paulette Leclerc is the teacher-librarian at Ecole Sun Valley School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364