What a gem this book is! It isn't often that I come across a book that I truly love from the first page, but this was, indeed, one of them. First time author A.C.E. Bauer has written a novel that will capture the attention of both boys and girls (and obviously adults).
No Castles Here chronicles a difficult time in Augie Boretski's life. He is scrawny, geeky, and poor, making the target on his back for teasing by the neighborhood bullies huge. He is being raised by his single mother, can't get a good grade to save his life, not to mention his school is falling apart. When Augie accidentally steals a book of fairy tales, his life begins to slowly change. First, he actually starts to read the book, quite a feat for Augie. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brother community program and though that makes him an even bigger bully target, he gets to meet a great guy out of it. Augie also manages to "accidentally" join the school chorus, which he happens to be good at and loves.
Unfortunatley, just when things seem to be looking up for Augie, an ice storm destroys his school and the school board has no intentions of fixing it, instead, splitting up Augie and his classmates and sending them to different schools around the city. Meaning, different bullies (which have just started to leave him alone) and no chorus. Augie makes a deal with himself to have the school rebuilt and to continue to rebuild his life as well. With the help of some unconventional "friends," a big brother, and a strange book of fairy tales, Augie is well on his way.
I wish I had been able to get my hands on a copy of this book before the Cybil awards. It is easily one of my favorites that I've read this year, but since it was published last year I guess I can't nominate it for the Cybils this time around. As long as some of you read it now, I won't be disappointed!