Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley

This is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time, well deserving of the Publishers Weekly starred review it received. It begins with the story of Sleeping Beauty. In this retelling, Sleeping Beauty’s final fairy godmother – the one who changed the curse so the entire castle would fall asleep instead of letting the princess die – had planned to give the infant the gift of wisdom. The princess could have used it, because as soon as she wakes up she runs off with her prince, leaving the castle and its newly awakened residents behind. Many more years pass, and the eponymous castle becomes a refuge for all those seeking a safe haven.

The main part of this story tells the story of the Lady Jain, Countess of Carabas, who escapes from her cruel husband and makes her way to the castle to give birth to an illegitimate son. She meets the eccentric, charming inhabitants of the castle and begins to learn their stories. There is the silent iron worker, so destroyed by the birth of his beloved son that his friends, the dwarves, put iron bars around his heart so he cannot feel. The most detailed history is Sister Peace, a bearded woman who ran away from home to join the circus and who eventually entered a convent of bearded women before coming to the Castle for a mysterious purpose. The pictures are simple but detailed and really emphasize the story. A second volume just came out and I cannot wait to find out what happens next!

Why I recommend this graphic novel:
There are many strong women in this book. Jain, for example, runs away, defends herself, goes after a stolen horse, and befriends the castle residents (even the sprites). Sister Peace originally left the circus to protect herself and her best friend from the cruel ringmaster. She helps the nuns save two indentured serfs with creativity and intelligence, and continues to protect her friends at the Castle. All of the characters provide great examples of courageous, positive, good people. The art is fun and the story is magical. There are many fairy tale elements that girls will have fun identifying (Do you remember Falada? Who was the Count of Carabas?) This is a lovely graphic novel, and I highly recommend it!

Medley, Linda. Castle Waiting. Fantagraphics Books, 2006. Gr. 6+

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