Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Great Good Thing

The Great Good Thing
By Roderick Townley
Turtleback Books 2001
216 pages
Borrowed from my sister

The Great Good Thing

Sylvie is the princess of a beautiful kingdom. But she's a little different from most princesses. Sylvie is the princess in a storybook. When the covers open, Sylvie, her parents, and the other characters scramble to their places so they can act out their story yet again. When the book is closed, they go about the rest of their lives. But Sylvie is increasingly disinterested in their tale because it's always wonderful in the exact same way. But things are not as simple as they seem -  what if Sylvie can get out of the book and the reader can get in? 

This is a wonderful book. The plot is so imaginative and, while it is mainly targeted at children, I think it has a lot to say about the endurance of stories and how we bring a story to life as readers. It's a story that I could imagine reading aloud to young children, giving to them to read by themselves when they get older, and returning to again as an adult.

Sylvie is a great character. She does have a prince, but he is hardly mentioned in this story. In the original tale, Sylvie is promised to be married but refuses to do so until she achieves a great good thing. When the story goes as it should, she sets off on a series of adventures helping various animals and people in her kingdom. Even after her story changes and Sylvie is unsure of what she should do, her courage and determination to help others guide her choices. She's a great heroine and one you can feel good about sharing with your kids. 

The Great Good Thing was really reminiscent of Peter Pan for me. The reader in this story is named Claire. She loves Sylvie and her tale as a young girl, but as she gets older needs Sylvie's help to remember it. What happens to a story when no one reads it anymore? Sylvie comes out of the story so she can help Claire and her daughter remember. There are moments between Claire, her daughter, and the characters in this novel that remind you of Peter Pan when Wendy grows up and Peter comes back for her daughter.

The Great Good Thing is a story about our shared love for characters who inspire us and stories that stay with us for a lifetime. Roderick Townley should be commended for taking the fairy tale and giving it new life and new heart. While it is aimed at older children, this is one of those wonderful tales that will resonate with people of all ages who love to hear the words "once upon a time." 


  1. What a great plot! I'm definitely interested.

    When I read this it reminded me of how when I was a little girl my sister and I used to believe that our Barbie dolls came alive at night when we were sleeping ;)

    1. Apparently this book has a sequel too about the perils of their story going digital!

      It's such a common theme of childhood, isn't it? I love reading The Velveteen Rabbit to my little guy, with the idea that toys that are really loved become real.