Quick Review: Tuesdays at the Castle and The Night Gardener

Here are two middle grade novels with fantasy elements.

  •  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
    • Series: Castle Glower #1
    • Rating: ★★★★ [ratings guide]
    • I devoured this book during April’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I think it’s a very fun, if not super deep, read. The castle intrigue and politics aren’t the most original, but they suit the story and are a lot of fun to read with the castle in play. The characters are well-balanced. I enjoyed this one and will read the sequel. I would recommend it for young readers who like ‘traditional castle fantasies’ (as I would have said when I was 10 :P). This is a good example of middle grade that could be enjoyed by anyone who likes this kind of story. 
  • The Night Garden by Jonathan Auxier
    • Rating: ★★★ [ratings guide]
    • I don’t like to say a book is ‘good for middle grade’ – I like to think a book is either good for all ages or none at all. However, lately I’ve been thinking that’s not as terrible a statement as I once thought (“It’s good for middle grade”). Kids have a different mindset, a different set of experiences than adults. A book that’s great for kids isn’t necessarily going to be great for adults. Perhaps what I should be saying is the best middle grade is good for all ages – it doesn’t all have to be that way. Not every book for children needs to refuel my love of reading or spark a strong emotional response or revolutionize how I think. So. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I think this is a good book for middle grade 😉 The characters weren’t as developed as I like to read (though they do each have clearly defined personalities). I hoped for more from the Night Gardener’s story, some depth or ambiguity regarding good and evil but the line is pretty clearly drawn in that matter, but I think that’s appropriate for this book.
    • The story does have some spooky and dark moments, certainly if you’re ten years old and therefore relatively new to this type of story. 
    • I liked how storytelling vs. lying factored into the story.

If I was writing more objectively, I might say these two books are of the same ‘goodness’ level. After writing about The Night Gardener, I thought again about Tuesdays at the Castle and tried to identify why I enjoyed that one more than the other. I don’t think the characters are any more strongly written than in The Night Gardener, which seems to be my main criticism of that book. I guess it just comes down to my personal preference for story.  Have you read either of these books? How would you compare the two? (Can they be compared, given their greatly different subject matter?)