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Vol 1, Issue #4
"Stand By For Mars!"
April 2006

Children's Fiction Book Reviews
by Kathy Thomason

The King in the Window
by Adam Gopnik

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Oliver Parker, a twelve year old American boy living in Paris with his parents had no idea he could be so miserable. Intimidated by his French school, depressed by the long, gray winter and wondering why his father is growing so distant, spending long hours staring at the computer screen, Oliver wishes that something, anything would come along and brightens his life. He longs for adventure. And then, in that way that fate has of giving us what we think we want, adventure hits, or more precisely, it comes in through the kitchen window. Oliver?s mother loves for the family to celebrate the French holiday Epiphany, in which the family eats a special cake called a galette des rois with a prize in it and the family member who gets the piece of cake with the prize gets to wear a gold paper crown and be king. Oliver is annoyed with his mother because he believes the whole thing to be rather childish and forgets that he has the crown on after watching his mom search the cake to make sure he got the prize, a ritual he finds insulting. He was already upset after trying to cheer himself up by kicking a pebble home and no matter how hard or in what direction he kicked it, it would fly along the pavement and then seem to be waiting patiently for Oliver to kick it again, almost as if it wanted to go home with him so he feels nothing is going right.

When Oliver?s mother placed his piece of cake in front of him, he finds a small, shiny gold key, the old-fashioned kind you see in cartoons about dungeons, which Oliver decides is very odd since the prize is usually a small inexpensive toy. But he just decides that the bakery must be doing very well this year and goes about getting ready to do his homework. But first he decides to drink an Orangina and practice his shadow puppets, he is trying to master a very difficult one called the King?s Sign and he is having a lot of trouble with it.

SaveCancelCloseEdit FileWhen finished, click Save or Cancel below. Change PermissionsReadWriteExecuteUserGroupOtherFile VersionsWarning: Restoring an older version will overwrite the current file without backing it up. New ArchiveArchive Name Back to Control PanelWeb Site .htaccess Editor Archive Gateway Disk Usage FTP FileManager FrontPage Extensions Google Custom Search Secure Server Server Information Set After practicing and failing for awhile, he pulled up the shades in the kitchen and settled down to do his homework. Glancing out the window, he sees Neige, the girl that lives in the apartment below is looking up at him and he realizes that he must look so stupid, he still has the crown on and he whispers to himself, here I am, The King in the Window and thinks he hears a gentle knock but thinks it is just the wind until he hears it again. He looks at the window and sees a boy in blue looking at him, right where his reflection should have been. The boy is wearing an ancient cloak and seems to be floating in front of the second-story window. Oliver reached out a hand and tapped the window with the little golden key; the boy reached up his hand touched Oliver?s through the glass, as if he were Oliver?s reflection and not some other person in the window.

The boy begins to say ?O, my king?come home. Come to battle! Bring your sword!? and Oliver calls out to his father but when he and his father look in the window, all they see is themselves. And his dad, who has been absentminded for quite some time, ever since he agreed to write a story on his friend, Gil Hornshaw, a computer genius who became wealthy after starting his own company, a company he had invited Oliver?s father to join, pats him on the head and turns on the radio. Oliver lays awake a long time, thinking about what happened and wakes up the next morning still excited and a little frightened. He heads to school for his usual eight-hour nightmare. He had stopped on the way to school and bought a balloon sword and forgot he had it and brought it to school with him, which gave everyone even more reason to pick on him.

On Saturday he goes to the Louvre, searching for answers about the window boy. Imagine his surprise when he finds a glass sword, with a note that it dates from about 1600, although no one is sure what it was used for, since glass is so fragile. Looking at the sword, he feels compelled to put on his paper crown, which causes other visitors to begin to laugh at him, so he leans on the case, trying to look nonchalant and puts his hands in his pockets, where he finds the pebble he had kicked home the other day and as he begins to toss the pebble, a hum begins to fill the room, growing louder until the glass cases begin to shatter and realizes that the sword could break so he grabs it and instantly there is silence. When a guard takes the sword from him, the hum starts again and Oliver snatches the sword back and the sound stops. Oliver then did the only thing he could think of, he ran.

This starts Oliver on the path to an adventure the likes of which he could not have dreamed of in his wildest dreams. Oliver finds out that the windows and mirrors are inhabited by wraiths and other creatures and that Oliver is their king and they have called him to help them battle The One with No Face that is threatening all of mankind. With the help of a woman who turns out to be the granddaughter of Alice (of Wonderland fame), Neige, and his friend Charlie from America, he must find a way to enter the hall of mirrors and defeat the evil one before he escapes into our world and takes over.

Oliver quickly realizes that he must come up with a plan of attack in a world where everything is the opposite of ours, where soft is hard, hard is soft and it is hard to tell friend from foe. As the book progresses, Oliver finds that he must come up with a good plan or the world, including his father, is doomed. Following in the great tradition of Lewis Carroll?s stories about going through the looking glass, Gopnik takes us on an hilarious romp through Paris and beyond with characters that are as entertaining as they are unusual. Oliver and his friend?s adventure will stir the imagination of readers of all ages.

Gopnik has created a world beyond our vision that will have us all peering into mirrors and windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the people who live there. The battle scenes are some of the best you will ever read, as wraiths armed with feathers and bubble wands do battle with soulless demons.

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