Friday, January 23, 2015

Griffin's Castle by Jenny Nimmo

Eleven-year old Dinah isn't very hopeful about her feckless mother's newest venture; moving them into an abandoned and condemned old house at the behest of her newest boyfriend, Gomer. However, she slowly becomes invested in the vast, ancient house, especially when she discovers the animals along the wall come to life and protect her.

Or are they holding her prisoner? As the year wanes and Christmas approaches, Dinah sinks deeper and deeper into her fantasy world, trying to create the happy family she desperately wants but deep inside knows is impossible. In the end, not even her new friends can save her; only Dinah's determination and spirit give her a chance to break away from the past and find a family for herself.

I always feel that Nimmo's work is somehow under-plotted - like there is a whole extra storyline I'm missing out on. However, her books are nonetheless enjoyable for all that. This is pure neglected-child-wish-fulfillment fantasy. Be sure to pull out the tissues as Dinah desperately tries to create a Christmas for a family that exists only in her imagination. There's just enough magic to add the spooky touch that Nimmo's work always has, and, of course, bits of history and Welsh culture sprinkled throughout as well. The ending is satisfying, if a little abrupt.

Verdict: This is out of print and, honestly, it's not so amazing that I'd take the trouble to track it down, but if you already have a copy in your library or run across one in a donation pile, be sure to recommend it to kids looking for a tear-jerker, holiday fantasy with a happy ending.

ISBN: 9780439025546; Published 2007 by Orchard/Scholastic; I think I bought it at Half-Price Books? Donated to the library

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