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No Castles Here Hardcover – October 23, 2007
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007:
"Complex characters and an infinitely readable text make this one of the strongest titles of the year."
About the Author
A.C.E. Bauer spends most of the year in Cheshire, Connecticut, and much of the summer on a lake in Quebec. She lives with her husband, two children, and their dog, Speedy. No Castles Here is her first novel.
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Augie also has been thinking a lot about problems, and he has plenty to think about. At the top of the list? Dwaine and his gang of bullies, who steal Augie's school lunch money, tease him in class and generally seize every opportunity to make his life miserable. Augie's hardworking, well-meaning single mom has tried to make Augie's life better by lining up a companion for him through the Big Brothers program. At first, 11-year-old Augie thinks he's too old for a Big Brother, even one like Walter, who has a great outlook on life and a really cool truck. But what will Dwaine and the other bullies say, or do, when they discover that a kid in their class has a Big Brother and that his Big Brother is gay? Finally, should Augie take a chance and join the chorus at school, or will that be just one more reason for the bullies to target him?
Augie may wish that a fairy godmother like the ones in his book could appear and make all his problems disappear, but he lives in Camden, New Jersey, where magic of any kind is nonexistent and problems are a dime a dozen: "The armpit of the world," Augie calls Camden, "home to losers and drug dealers." However, when a real crisis threatens Augie's school and the health and future of his whole community, Augie learns that, with a little hard work and perseverance, a different sort of magic might just come about after all.
On the surface of things, the premise of A.C.E. Bauer's debut novel is an odd one. The book consists of a series of fairy tales, which begins with the classic Cinderella tale "Donkey Skin" and travels through history. These are interspersed within Augie's own story, a gritty urban tale that touches on issues of tolerance, bullying, violence and self-acceptance. With all these elements, NO CASTLES HERE would be an ambitious project for any author.
Remarkably, Bauer fulfills the task seemingly with ease, resulting in a story in which magic can seem real but in which the real magic occurs in the relationships between people, in the truly remarkable things that happen when a community bonds together. Augie is a realistic character who screws up, tells lies and turns his back on people who care for him, but nevertheless has a good heart, particularly once he learns to trust and care for the people who also value him. In stories, music and, especially, community, Augie discovers that magic might exist after all, even in humble old Camden, New Jersey.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
There are plenty of things Augie never thought he would do. Walking into a bookstore was one of them. But seeing a display with a donkey and a princess in the window, for some reason, captivated him. He plops himself down on a random couch that happens to have a book. Not just any book, though -- this book just so happens to have the same characters that Augie saw in the window.
And just like how Augie was swept into the store, he sweeps himself out of the world he wanted to forget, and into a world full of fantasy and adventure.
Yet, Augie doesn't know that by reading this book, his entire life just changed. From wanting to help his school to actually standing up for himself and others against those who were never nice, to having a sort of fairy godmother, Augie's life will just never be the same again... for the better.
Alternating through Augie's life and the adventure novel he reads, NO CASTLES HERE is that one book which makes us feel glad that we picked it up. Augie isn't just any normal character; he is one that we can all look up to and learn that the only way we are able to accomplish something is if we are willing to take that first step.
Reviewed by: Randstostipher "tallnlankyrn" Nguyen
A.C.E. Bauer has crafted a novel that manages to be both entertaining and empowering, straddling the middle reader/young adult line with an ease that should evoke envious sighs of appreciation from others in her genre.
This book reflects some of the magical realism that permeates much of today's good adult-shelf fiction (see J.S. Foer's "Everything Is Illuminated", for one of the finest examples) in a way that is intricate, complex, but still accessible to the young reader. Bauer weaves a family tree of fairy godmothers - some of folk history's greatest-loved outcasts - with the story of 11-year-old Augie Boretski, a scrappy scapegoat for his pre-gentrification Camden neighborhood's aspiring gang members and drug dealers.
The ending comes together all too soon, with a mildly frustrating nod to Dickens's tradition of mysterious benefactors. However, a longer novel probably wouldn't sustain the attention of Bauer's Augie-aged audience, who deserve closure and a good-guys-win ending as much as Augie and his fairy godparents do.
A satisfying read, which kept this college student awake until 3am, when she finished the very last page.