Friday, July 13, 2007


Linda Medley
PUBLISHER: Fantagraphics Books
GENRE: Modern Fairy Tale

FORMAT: Hardback
PAGES: 457 pages
COLOR: Black and White
ISBN-10: 1-56097-747-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-56097-747-6

The journey
Spousal abuse
Controversial pregnancy

Creator Linda Medley takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and intertwines her own yarn of strength and endurance, eventually leaving the old folktale behind. CASTLE WAITING is sophisticated, beautiful and courageous. It is an uncluttered graphic novel for today’s youth, a piece of traditional storytelling with the power of a modern worldview and an absence of old stereotypes.

I enjoyed the book a great deal, but because the focus of the book is on relationships rather than adventure, I suspect the book may tend to appeal to more girls than boys. For those girls and boys who do pick up CASTLE WAITING they will find a plethora of strong women and honorable men to admire. No heroes, really, just regular people who are good and kind and worth knowing.

CASTLE WAITING has its harsh characters as well. Today’s children will not be newcomers to the men who choose to abuse their wives or girlfriends or those who prey on the unsuspecting through thieving and trickery. Tough stuff, but it is what makes good literature.

I am sure that CASTLE WAITING will have its detractors. Medley pulls no punches in her story, choosing to show the harsh realities of life. Good children’s literature has done that for many years. More sensitive parents may object to the fact that there is a woman who leaves the confines of her violent husband’s castle to seek refuge for herself and her unborn baby (by another man). The message is that all who seek refuge will find love and kindness – a worthy message by anyone’s standards – unfortunately that message may be overshadowed by those who may be overly offended by Lady Jain’s unfortunate circumstances being portrayed in a book. There are also several instances of cursing. It consists mostly of “damn” and “hell” and even a “#@*&%”. On page 210 we see a hanged thief dangling from the gallows. To some, those are issues that are too strong for a children’s book.

I do find this an interesting piece of children’s literature, as there are virtually no children in the book. One typically defining characteristic of children’s literature is the fact that it features children or child-like characters as the protagonists. Not so with CASTLE WAITING, but the story is not finished and we have witnessed the birth of Lady Jain’s baby. So things may change.

Medley is not only a talented writer, but an accomplished illustrator as well. Her clear lines and unfettered style lend perfectly to the story. While I do protest the choice of black and white, a 457-page full color novel would probably be too cost prohibitive to produce in a single book.

Here we see Lady Jain leaving
her home, pregnant and abused.

Here is an example of the language.

My Rating: Ages 10 and older
Publisher’s Recommended Age: All Ages
All Ages Reads: All Ages
Comics in the Classroom: Grade 4 and older

I can recommend the book for children ages 10 and older. This age of child is becoming aware of the world and of tragedies and should be emotionally able to read the book with no problems. However, because of the language and mature situations, I can see where some would prefer their child be older (say middle school) before reading.

This is an appropriate book to use in a social studies class, as modern issues of spousal abuse and a controversial pregnancy are areas that affect teens. Many teens can relate to running away from an abusive home situation and seeking refuge in a non-judgmental environment. Students can write or discuss persons in their lives who act as a refuge, a person who gives comfort and peace, in a time when students’ lives can feel out of control. They can explore how this person helps them and guides them.

So many children and adults can relate to a time when they felt the world was working against them, that forces beyond their control were pushing them to make poor choices. In CASTLE WAITING these invisible forces are manifested as a mischievous little devil-sprite, and is a perfect backdrop from which to discuss the pressures of the world.

Overall, CASTLE WAITING is about tolerance and diversity in a world that is full of hatred and discontent. Certainly, the greater good is at work in this graphic novel and is ripe for classroom discussion.

Recommended with Reservations
Despite the wonderful nature of the book, I hesitate to recommend it for the classroom, especially an elementary classroom. I think the cursing and the strong content may land this book in the hot seat with parents of young children. It would be more acceptable in a middle school classroom and fine for a high school classroom. I say all of this, yet I will be offering it to my daughter as soon as her reading level is such that she can read the book on her own. That will certainly be before she reaches age 10.

If you want to stock this book in an elementary classroom or library, then I recommend you consider your community. My community is a very conservative one in which Harry Potter is not read in the classrooms because of the magic involved, which is why I recommended CASTLE WAITING with reservations. Your community may be very different and much more accepting of all types of literature.

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