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The King in the Window Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 15, 2005
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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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Top customer reviews
by Adam Gopnik
(Miramax Books, 2005)
I once knew a girl who grew up in Marin County and whose mother knew Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and (so the story goes) occasionally he would babysit for them and tell bedtime stories. I imagine that being author Adam Gopnik's son would be a bit like that, having a singular creative intelligence at your beck and call, weaving stories that no one else can hear... Until, now that is: this childrens fantasy book is clearly based on stories that Gopnik - an essayist for the "New Yorker" magazine - wove for his son while on a multi-year assignment in France. The hero, Oliver Parker, is a twelve-year old American boy who has spent most of his life growing up in Paris with his (cough, cough) newspaper-writer father and cheerful, athletically-inclined mom.
In a dense epic that weaves in echoes of "Peter Pan," "Alice In Wonderland" and that creepy '80s movie with David Bowie in it, "Labyrinth," Gopnik tells a tale of an alternate world of mirror and window reflections at war with each other, and a sinister force inside of mirrors that steals the souls of those who are overly vain. The soul-stealing theme is a bit intense, and genuinely creepy, and like some of the book's more complex concepts, isn't entirely translated from the adult imagination into smooth-enough prose that would be accessible to most children. Indeed, although I found many passages captivating, I was surprised at how earthen and lumpy Gopnik's prose was here... I admire him greatly as a writer and humorist, but found much of this book had a fairly mechanical feel to it - paragraphs often seemed repetitive and circular and I was surprised at how often a stylist for the New Yorker would reuse the same words and phrases in such close proximity (in one short paragraph the word "light" is repeated seven times - do they not have thesauri in France?) Also, the book could have been about a fifth shorter than it was - sometimes it got a bit too wordy.
Still, this is an imaginative and intelligent fantasy adventure, and I would recommend it for families of a certain intellectual, egghead-y bent. It's not the greatest kid's book ever, but it's certainly not the worst. Worth checking out. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain childrens book reviews)
Oliver Parker is a twelve-year-old American boy living in Paris. Contrasts between America and France are very convincingly portrayed through Oliver's eyes and through comments from his parents and teachers. Life is hard. School is serious. And language arts, taught in a foreign language, give heavy devoirs (homework). But that's not Oliver's only problem. There's the fact that his father, once loving and deeply involved in his life, now seems to grow ever more distant. There's the row he had with a girl called Neige downstairs. There's the American friend who's too far away to be any help, but thanks to computers and wi-fi hotspots is near enough to talk to. And there's the strange character who looks out from a window when Oliver incautiously, and childishly, persists in wearing a paper crown after Epiphany celebrations.
This novel has all the charm and intriguing word-play of Alice, the solid world-building and modern-day outlook of Harry Potter, the foreign mystique of the Little Prince, and a wonderful combination of imagination, allegory and science. Exciting, innocent, esoterically clever and solidly down-to-earth, the result is a book that draws adults in just as surely as children, leaving the reader just slightly the wiser, pleasantly confused, and with a whole new wonderful outlook on windows and mirrors.
Disclosure: A friend's grandson recommended this book and I loved it!
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