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The Great Good Thing Hardcover – April 3, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Sylvie Cycle Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689843240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689843242
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,152,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the opening of this book-- Sylvie lived an intresting life, but she didn't get to live it very often-- the wonderful central subject of what characters in a book do when the book is closed is clearly drawn. I do not think young readers will have any trouble with this concept-- in effect it's no different from wondering what your dolls do when they're not in the room-- and older readers will appreciate the many layers of the book, and the somewhat melancholy depiction of how fast life goes by and how quickly the various Readers age and die, in the "real world." and yet the story is eternal!
I enjoyed this book as a fantasy about Sylvie and her longing for adventure-- I enjoyed the details of having to scramble back into page 3, the rules about not looking UP at the reader, the way the "stage lights" come on when the book is abruptly closed-- the characters who want to behave out of character (the courtly thief, who is far more polite and helpful than he's supposed to be)-- and then, as in the best fantasy, I enjoyed the profound mythic impulse behind it. Claire, the Reader Sylvie first encountered, is desperately trying to save her grandmother. She reopens the book to read it to her grandmother, who was once the "girl with blue eyes" who was the First Reader.
But the exploration of worlds within worlds doesn't stop there. Claire's grandmother does die, but she reappears in Sylvie's world-- beyond the eastern forest-- as the girl with blue eyes. It turns out that beyond the margins of the book is the world of Claire's dreams, and many more characters appear there.
To reveal more would be to lessen the fun for you Readers out there.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Although listed as a children's book, this book should be read by anyone who's interested in the wonderment of books. It's a delightful story about real characters in books who are alive - and not just in the reader's mind. When the book isn't open, they lie around getting bored but when a 'Reader' comes along, they scramble for their places and take up the story. So what happens when one of the characters actually meets the Reader and helps her with her problems? That's what you'll have to read the book to find out. This one is a must read for writers, readers, and anyone who's in love with the written word. It is a unique, new way of looking at fairy tales.
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Format: Hardcover
Roderick Townley has written a book for every age, everywhere.
I immediately surrendered to the incredible charm of this novel, and was transported into a story that resonated through my adult mind and on into one of a delighted child who had longed for a tale of this caliber. The Great Good Thing offers the reader a deeply touching possibility of how, when, where, and why our imagination works, but does so in a universally engaging way that will captivate and inspire everyone: through a really good story. Full of metaphor, it nonetheless allows its audience to breathe within its unfolding instead of the ham-handed approach so often used to convey meaningful points. I could not put it down, and have a good idea of what Christmas will look like for a number of friends - they all need a Great Good Thing, too. Thank you for a wonderful book, Roderick Townley!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. It's about Sylvie and her parent's kingdom. This may sound like a fairytale but it's not. The kingdom is a book. They live in the book and they are the characters. Townley manages to introduce you into a whole new world of the readers, the characters and the mind, and there is still a wonderful story between the description of how one character gets pinned down by a huge finger when the reader uses her finger as a bookmark, and how another character hinds himself between parentheses. The characters say things to believable that I found myself being careful to not let my finger rest on any words for fear that I might squish a character. This is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to everyone in sight!
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Format: Paperback
It may not be a big secret anymore, but there are a lot of adults who like reading "children's books". No, though it made me take a second look at today's "kid's lit", Harry Potter(as much as I love it)did not start this. I digress.
I am reading a lot of "juvenile fiction" these days and while on a search at my local book store for new authors and stories, I happened upon a hard back of Into the Laberynth and learned of this earlier book by the same author.
I don't want to give much away about the plot, but it is a sweet, wacky and humorous story about what might go on inside your old storybooks when you are not reading them. The characters go on living their lives and when a person is reading the book .....it's like the characters are stage performers.
The main character is Sylvie a princess who is called upon to do a great good thing to save her kingdom and her story. In her journey she meets and befriends one of her readers a little girl named Claire. It is a fun story but poignant. It is in turns...exciting,humorous,suspenceful,sweet and sad. I finished the book and(I might be getting a little carried away, but who cares)found it quite frankly one of the most enjoyable novels(not just "children's novels" I have read in a long time.
A most unexpected and pleasurable treasure. I would recomend it to anyone who ever read a story book or listened to a story.
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