THE WHITE TOWER, by Cathryn Constable, Chicken House, Sept. 26, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
The reason I initially read The White Tower, by Cathryn Constable, was it’s ethereal cover. The reason I’ll read it again is the excellent writing.
Livy’s father is a librarian, and he’s just been offered a position at Temple College, the oldest school in London. With that appointment comes a place in the school for Livy — if she makes it through the interview.
Then there’s the matter of Livy not wanting to attend Temple. She’s promised her best friend, Mahalia, that she won’t ever leave. The problem is, Mahalia already left, taken by leukemia.
Despite Livy’s misgivings, she’s accepted to Temple. But Livy’s different from the other kids. She doesn’t come from money, and she’s not super gifted, at least not in the subjects the school teaches.
Livy’s gifts are ones she’s afraid to reveal, ones she’s afraid to believe. Recently, Livy’s began to feel untethered from the earth. She can’t take her eyes off the sky or keep her feet solidly on the ground.
Once her family moves to Temple, Livy feels drawn to the roof and the ancient statues that guard its white tower. That’s not all, though. Livy’s dreams of flying are becoming more vivid, almost as if she really is. The more obsessed Livy becomes with the roof, the more distracted she becomes, and others are starting to notice. If Livy’s not careful, her secret could become more dangerous than she ever imagined.
The White Tower is a delightful mix of suspense, mystery and magic. Author Cathryn Constable’s world building is lovely. Temple College, Livy’s bedroom and the rooftops feel every part characters in the novel.
Livy is both and easy and difficult character to like. Her standoffish, introvert nature makes her feel isolated, but it also gives readers a chance to get into her head. More to the point, The White Tower wouldn’t work if she were a super friendly, bubbly girl. Her quiet nature helps her seem invisible even when she’s not.
In keeping with Livy’s character, The White Tower is a quiet book. While there is some action, more attention is placed on the mystery. And while some readers will find the adventure lacking, I know this type of book would have been right up my alley when I was a middle-grader.
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