The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
After Ephraim’s father has a stroke, the family moves to the Water Castle, an ancestral home in Crystal Springs, Maine. Ephraim is convinced that coming from the big city, he will be more popular and seem smarter than he ever had before. After all, his older brother has always been popular and his little sister is very smart. But things don’t work out the Ephraim expects. The house itself is unusual, filled with strange rooms and different levels; it glows blue at night and hums. Ephraim is definitely not popular, quickly showing how awkward he is and then also demonstrating how little he knows compared to his classmates. Luckily though, the mystery of the house draws in two other children his age who want to figure out how their own families are tied to the Water Castle and its connection to the Fountain of Youth.
Blakemore writes with a wonderful mix of science and fantasy here. The blend is compelling, making the book impossible to put down until the mystery is solved. Readers will not know if they are reading a fantasy book or one that could have actually happened until the very end. Told with flashbacks to the past that add to the understanding of the intertwined families as well as the fascination with explorers, this book is complex in the best of ways, keeping readers guessing right up to the end.
Ephraim is a character that has quite a few flaws. Readers will flinch as he is too brash and too confident for his own good, especially when trying to make friends. Happily, it is when he calms down and shows his feelings that Ephraim becomes entirely himself, a side that readers see long before the other characters in the book.
Complex and multilayered, this middle grade book will be embraced by historical fiction, science and fantasy fans. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.