Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell (Book Review)

Title: Shadow Castle
Author: Marian Cockrell
Illustrator: Olive Bailey
Publication Information: Whittlesey House, Hardcover, 1945; Scholastic, Paperbacks; iUniverse, paperback with chapters not included in the original edition, 2000.
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Plot: Lucy, a nine year old (presumably orphaned) who lives with her grandmother on a mountainside above a village, goes exploring in the deep, dark forest where she encounters a small white dog. The dog leads her through the forest into a valley where a handsome young man and a mysterious castle are waiting. The young man, Michael, shows her a tower room inhabited by the shadows of people who lived in the castle. They have waited for hundreds of years for their enchantment to be over and, coaxed, Michael spends the rest of the day telling Lucy (and the dog, Flumpdoria) stories about the magical inhabitants.
What I liked: Shadow Castle has enchanted me as well as several generations of readers! Michael tells Lucy about the magical prince who lived in the castle with his human wife Gloria, and Mika’s son Robin who runs afoul of a goblin kingdom. He describes Mika’s daughter Meira, sought after by many suitors, who leaves them behind to befriend and take tea with a dragon in one of the most memorable illustrations. Cockrell’s storytelling is so vivid the reader forgets Michael is merely telling Lucy a fairy tale.

About the Author: How I wish that my mother or I had written to Mrs. Cockrell to tell her how much we loved this book! We knew nothing about her but it turns out that Marian Cockrell and her husband Francis were both screenwriters in Hollywood, writing for shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Batman, Gunsmoke, and Perry Mason. Marian also wrote six adult novels, of which The Revolt of Sarah Perkins is my favorite. Her daughter, Amanda, is also a writer. Although I never met her, I sold and promoted at least one of Amanda’s books to B&N and Waldenbooks when I worked at Avon/Morrow. Of course, I noted the unusual name and read one of the books but it never really occurred to me she was related to Marian! If I had, there might have been an opportunity to interact with Marian who was alive until 1999 and to meet Amanda herself! It is wonderful that she preserved her mother’s legacy by bringing Shadow Castle back into print in 2000 with previously unpublished material.  This blogger followed up with Amanda and researched the author, Olive Bailey.
Source: This was one of my mother’s childhood favorites, and I inherited her dark green hardcover. The pages are yellowed, the dust jacket long gone, and it contains a note that it was “produced in full compliance with the government’s regulations for conserving paper and other essential materials” during WWII. I recommend Shadow Castle to girls who like fantasy with humor.  It's also a great comfort read!  There are many other fans online, most of whom found the book through Scholastic Book Services in the 60s.


Anonymous said...

Shadow Castle was my favorite book when I was 10 years old and is still my favorite at 76.As a baby sitter in college I used it's three stories of Mika, Gloria and their two children to keep my own charges fascinated. (This was the era of Puff, the Magic Dragon and he was a slouch compared to Barnstooka.)

bobbi said...

I, too, found this book through Scholastic Book Services, and remembered it fondly through the years! I finally tracked down a copy through Ebay and have enjoyed it over and over. A lovely story, and Flumpdoria is my favorite name, ever!