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Book Club Kits: The Castle in the Mist

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Amy Ephron

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Book Summary

In the tradition of Edward Eager and E.L. Konigsburg, a novel about the excitement--and the dangers--of wishing.


Tess and her brother, Max, are sent for the summer to their aunt's sleepy village in the English countryside, where excitement is as rare as a good wifi signal. So when Tess stumbles upon an old brass key that unlocks an ornately carved gate, attached to a strangely invisible wall, she jumps at the chance for adventure. And the world beyond the gate doesn't disappoint. She finds rose gardens, a maze made of hedges, and a boy named William who is just as lonely as she is.


But at William's castle, strange things begin to happen. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there's William's eerie warning: Beware of the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.


In a magical, fantasy world that blurs the line between reality and imagination, readers are left to wonder exactly what they'd wish for if wishes could come true. Perfect for fans of Half Magic and The Secret Garden--and for anyone who's ever wondered if magic is real.


For the further adventures of Tess and Max, be sure to check out Amy Ephron's Carnival Magic


Praise for The Castle in the Mist


"Bursting with imagination and warmth, Amy Ephron's first novel for young people is a magical book in all ways."--Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s

"This beautiful story's quiet, peaceful tone nicely evokes both the serenity of country life and the haunting magic of the castle, and the emotional heft of Tess and Max's separation from their parents, as well as their strong bond, keeps the tale firmly grounded in reality. Perfect for middle-graders who love classic fantasy."--Booklist


"Rich description of the castle along with an elaborate map at the book's beginning and an illustration at the end enhance the fantasy world....A sequel is suggested; beguiled readers will hope it happens."--Kirkus Reviews


"There are scenes...that are transcendent in their beautiful, ethereal descriptions in this] uplifting novel about family and connection."--BCCB

"A slightly darker, updated take on magical realism classics such as Edward Eager's Half Magicand E. Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle."--School Library Journal


"A near-perfect 9....This book defies gravity because it's hard to put down "--Time for Kids, kid reporter

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have any siblings? What is your relationship like with them?


  1. Are you more like Tess or Max in your personality and how you approach situations? Analytical vs. fearless? Factual vs. imaginative? Logical vs. adventurous?


  1. What do you think about Tess’s “dilemma”, as her dad would call it, in the second chapter? “If she’d found the key to someone’s ‘house,’ did it mean she had a right to use it?”


  1. What kinds of advice or instruction from parents/teachers, etc. run through your head when you need to make a decision?


  1. If you were to create a fantasy world, what would you put in it?


  1. How much does the time period you are from affect who you are?


  1. Do you agree with Tess avoiding sharing “the real story” with her aunt? What might her reason(s) be?


  1. Do you do any writing outside of schoolwork? Keep a diary or write poetry like Tess? Is it something you keep private or like to share with others?


  1. The kids don’t have cell service or internet at their aunt’s how do you think this puts events of their summer into motion? Do you think the kids would’ve had the adventures they did if they had access to social media, games, internet, etc.?


  1. Another quote from Tess in Chapter 8—despite how unbelievable something may seem, “If two people think something happened, did it happen?”


  1. What was the most “extraordinary afternoon” (or morning, or day, or evening) you have had?


  1. What food machine would you invent if you could (like the donut maker, lemonade machine, etc.)?


  1. What wish would you make to get a ride on the “wish carousal”? (Chapter 10)


  1. How did Max and Tess’s relationship grow and change? How did the events of the summer help contribute to that growth?