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The King in the Window Paperback – October 16, 2006

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Award-winning adult author Adam Gopnik's first children's book, an adventure set in modern day Paris starring an American boy who finds himself at the center of a war between window and mirror spirits, is an mixed bag of fantasy, technology and history that doesn't quite hang together as a whole. One January evening, eleven-year-old Oliver receives a vision in his bedroom window of a young boy in 17th century dress. This apparition informs him that he is the new King in the Window, a hero elected by kind window wraiths to assist them in their centuries-long war with the soul-stealing evil mirror spirits. Soon, Oliver finds himself in The Way, or the parallel universe on the other side of mirrors. Here, he engages in battle with the diabolical Master of Mirrors, chats with Nostradamus, and helps rescue an elderly Alice in Wonderland. In addition, there is a subplot concerning a super computer atop the Eiffel Tower! , an examination of 17th century French court life, and an on-going discussion of quantum physics. Whew! Gopnik's promising premise quickly sinks under the weight of top-heavy symbolism, arcane literary references, and a seemingly endless supply of quirky characters. As a result, the narrative loses its thread, and ultimately, it's target middle grade audience, who will be unable to tie together the divergent strands of this convoluted tale. In sum, less would have been much more. --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-9–A fantasy that is as ambitious in theme, sophisticated in setting, and cosmic in scope as the works of Madeline L'Engle. The unlikely and eponymous hero is Oliver Parker, an 11-year-old American boy living in Paris with his mother and journalist father. After he finds a prize in his slice of cake on the night of Epiphany and dons the customary gilt-paper crown, the boy is plunged into a battle over nothing less than control of the universe. His enemy is the dreaded Master of Mirrors, who rose to power during the reign of Louis XIV, when Parisians developed technology for making sheet glass. This faceless, evil being, capable of capturing souls through mirrors and enslaving them in an alternate world that lies beyond all mirrors, now seeks to dominate the entire universe by mounting a quantum computer on the Eiffel Tower. Oliver's mission is to defeat the Master of Mirrors and save his father's stolen soul. Empowered by the ideas of the French Enlightenment–logic, rhetoric, and his understanding of the difference between irony and metaphor–Oliver is aided by a wild assortment of living allies, along with spirits from the past who dwell in windows, longtime enemies of the Master of Mirrors. Nostradamus, Racine, Molière, and Alice Liddell make guest appearances. The story starts slowly, for its complicated and rather far-fetched premises require quite a bit of exposition, but rises to an action-packed climax. The book's strengths are its engaging characters and its lovingly and specifically evoked setting.–Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition (October 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786838949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786838943
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,994,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dena Landon on February 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Reading Adam Gopnik's King in the Window is rather like rather as if someone picked you up and deposited you in a foreign country; overwhelming, confusing, and headache inducing. While his prose is certainly competent, his plotting is not.

Oliver is a lonely American boy living with his family in Paris, when one night he puts on a paper crown, looks at himself in a window, and is chosen by the window wraiths as their King. He must defeat the Master of None, an evil magician who steals souls from the other side of mirrors and was the original man in the iron mask, who is seeking to break free of his imprisonment in the Mirror Maze.

Gropnik blends too many elements and ends up satisfying in none; we have ancient French courtiers at Versailles, mixed in with the obligatory crotchety old woman who really has a heart of gold, secret societies to help out the bumbling and clueless hero, magic based on mirrors and windows that didn't *quite* hold up logically, and then we have computers and soul-stealers, and Quantum physics and multiverses, and all we needed were lions and tigers, oh my! I felt like the author was trying to impress me with his cleverness, if we'd been on a date I would have thought he was trying too hard and given him a handshake at the end of the night.

In addition, while Paris is a fantastic setting, and one the author clearly adores, it feels like he's trying to stuff every cool location in the city into one novel. One gets the feeling that this could have been a good novel, if it had gone through two or three more revisions and had a stricter editor. But too many stock fantasy elements, combined with a sprawling plot line that would probably not hold the attention of a middle grade reader, and a too-large cast of supporting characters, doom this novel to the bottom end of mediocre.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. Walker on January 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The premise behind "The King in the Window" is intriguing -- window wraiths, living in windows, battling the Master of Mirrors with the help of a boy king. From a "New Yorker" writer, however, I'd expect more tightly-written, lively prose -- this book was poorly edited (I'd stumble over at least one disjointed, multi-comma'd phrase each page when reading aloud), and worse, condescending to readers of any age. Think plot summaries every few pages and constant check-ins in question form ("What would Oliver do now?").
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I see this book has gotten mixed reviews, but I enjoyed reading it. To summarize briefly: Oliver, an American schoolboy living in Paris, puts a paper crown on his head on Epiphany and is identified and summoned by the Window Wraiths to be their king, and to defeat the Master of the Mirrors, the One with None. Oliver's quest takes him all over Paris: into the Louvre, out to Versailles, into churches and a three-star restaurant, to the Eiffel tower and to other landmarks, while he tries to thwart the One's plot, which is to steal people's souls, first through mirrors and then through a modern-day equivalent. With each new twist, Oliver makes more mistakes, until things reach a crisis point and it is up to him to save the world.

This all gets a bit complicated and headache-y at times, and I don't know how excited today's pre-adolescents are going to be about appearances by Moliere and Racine and Lewis Carroll's Alice. And the talk about Irony and Rhetoric and Metaphor and Wit is clever but seems to me, at least, to be too precious for most of today's kids. But Oliver is an appealing characters, and the story, dense though it may be, is intriguing. The Paris backdrop is an integral part and a lot of fun, and it's being described here by someone who knows and loves it.

And one more thing (and there is a small spoiler here, so read on at your own risk): in addition to saving the world, Oliver also needs to save his own father, an American journalist stationed in Paris, which Adam Gopnik was for a number of years. It's hard not to identify Gopnik with Tyrone's character. This book isn't just fantasy. It becomes a love letter from a father to his son.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The King in the Window is a wonderful story about a boy named Oliver Parker who moves from his home in America to Paris, France. After Oliver eats Epiphany cake, he puts on a paper crown. He then finds a little boy who was outside of his window. He enters a magical world with the window wraiths. ( The window wraiths are the things that you see when you look into a window and see your reflection.)

What I really liked about the book was that there was a good and interesting plot. I thought it was cool that Oliver and his friend Neige had to go and fight their way through the castle to get to the master of the mirrors. The master of the mirrors was made out of extremely cold material and could control people's minds.

Overall though, I thought that The King in the Window was just the right kind of book for me. I loved the plot and I thought it was a mix a funny and serious. It had a lot of intense action and some mysterious parts. Anyone who reads this review should pick it up and give it a shot-- I think that this book will one day become an award winning movie.

--Miles Rosenthal, Chicago
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