From Publishers Weekly
In his clever, deftly written first novel for young readers, Townley gives life to Princess Sylvie and her cohorts, characters from an out-of-print and rarely read fairy tale, by having them cross over to the dreams of Readers. In this new context, the characters must perform without scripts, and so imagine stories beyond their own. For 12-year-old Sylvie, this is a venue to break out of her safe and "storied" life as an obedient girl and become the heroine of the kingdom. This narrative line is interwoven with the story of three generations of woman Readers who cherish the original tale. Sylvie and her friends, with the help of a "first" Reader, known as the girl with "dark blue eyes," cross from her granddaughter's dreams to her great granddaughter's to preserve the story, The Great Good Thing. The title takes on a double meaning it not only applies to the book itself, but also Sylvie's quest to save it. In the process, an invisible fish and a blind owl come to her aid; there's even a palace coup. The novel, as a journey through ephemeral spaces between thought, dreams and words, is as much a romantic paean to reading and writing as it is a good story. Older readers will most appreciate its layered meanings, but the book can be enjoyed at many levels. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-The characters in a fairy tale are also the major characters in this novel, and they become involved in the lives of its readers. Within the pages of a storybook, 12-year-old Sylvie, a princess, refuses to consider marriage until she accomplishes one "Great Good Thing," and goes off to aid several animals in distress. Sylvie also violates the cardinal rule of storybooks and looks her Reader right in the eye, establishing a lasting bond with her. She lives the role of an adventurous heroine, rescuing her story when Claire's brother sets the book on fire. She ventures in and out of Claire's dreams. In hazy transitions, the story moves to a subconscious level with all the book characters only alive in the oral retelling, eventually in danger of being forgotten. Numerous supporting characters float in and out of the scenes: Claire's menacing brother; her grandmother (the original Reader who gave her the book); and, eventually her daughter Lily, who saves Sylvie's story from disappearing. However, the movement of characters in one person's dream or waking world to the mind of another is difficult to follow or swallow. This is an extremely clever and multilayered concept, but one has to question the child appeal, even among the most ardent fantasy fans. Most young readers will lose interest in this book long before its admittedly happy conclusion.Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.