Over the summer holidays, Lara has devoured the contents of her bookcase; sometimes whizzing through an entire book in one day. She is unstoppable. One of the books she couldn't put down was The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson (and illustrated by Chris Riddell). Today I has time to kill waiting outside a kids birthday party so I thought I'd try reading the book myself to see what was so un-put-downable about it.
So I sat down and read The Castle of Inside Out cover to cover in under an hour...and I loved it. It reminded me of a cross between Alice in Wonderland with Animal Farm; but far more fluid and readable than either of the above! The Castle of Inside Out is clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland; it starts with Lorina, a young girl with an active imagination, getting lost and following a black rabbit into the woods. There she learns about the "green people" and the Insiders (those who live inside the castle that dominates the landscape) and the Outsiders (those that live outside the castle).
Lorina finds herself in a land where the animals have taken over. They've imprisoned the king, set the green people to work and they're polluting the landscape. Its a powerful story telling the tale of greed, gluttony and laziness. Lorina shows selflessness in her quest to try and find food for the starving Outsiders and to prevent the thick smoke (from the furnaces in the castle fuelled by waste food) from poisoning those who live outside the castle. On her travels she meets many of the pigs and animals who rule the country and is disgusted by the effect that wealth and power has had on them.
There are such strong similarities between this story and those of both Alice in Wonderland and Animal Farm that can't be a co-incidence. From the funny little ditties that each of the pigs sings, to the fabulous chapter of rhyming wonderfullness that brings a light-hearted humour to the execution scene, I was reminded of Alice at many times when reading this book. Lara is still a bit young to be able to appreciate the complex turns of phrase of Lewis Carroll but the humour and language used by David Henry Wilson is far more appropriate for young readers.
Lara enjoyed the silly languages that the different animals use (the cuckoo often uses the word cuck half way through his normal words) and she appreciated the references to different animals such as the Piggident (president), The Ox-Man (executioner) and of course the the Asses from Assenal and the Donkeys from Donkaster Rovers who play in a Hoofball match.
In among the humour, Lara really understood the messaging of the story and took away the morals that greed and gluttony can cause hurt and suffering. She understood that the pigs were representing an extreme reflection of humanity. And she really felt the frustration and irritation of the lead character Lorina as she was passed from one contact to another in order to try and find anyone who cared about the Outsider's fate...this frustration too reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland who gets increasingly frustrated with the silliness of the world she has imagined.
I really, really enjoyed this book and I'm so glad Lara did too.