- Virginia Johnson
There are many fantasy books that lead you to other places filled with wizards, royalty, and magical creatures. They provide an escape for their readers. But what if the characters wanted to escape? The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, is about a princess who wants something more out of her fairy tale life—if only she can get the chance.
For ages and ages, no one had opened the book. Just as Sylvia sat weeping in boredom by the edge of the lake, pleading for something to happen, a fan of light began opening in a corner of the sky, sending flashes of color across the water. "Rawwwk! Reader!" screamed an orange bird. "Boooook open! Ooopen! Boook open!" groaned a bullfrog.
Everyone from Princess Sylvie to Thomas, the courteous thief, scrambled to their places. Chapter one, page three found Sylvie center-stage and out of breath from the long run from the lake:
"Father," she said, and paused. There was dignity in the way she carried herself, her chin lifted, her voice soft but clear. "I cannot marry Prince Riggeloff."
King Walther seemed stunned. "Not marry Riggeloff?" He walked to the window considering her words, then turned to face her. "For heaven's sake, child! He is handsome, rich..."
She lowered her head. "Kind, brave," she said, "yes, I am aware of his qualities." "He has everything!"
The girl flashed him a look. "So have I!"
Sylvie has been a princess in a storybook for more than eighty years. She's the heroine of a wonder tale replete with magical waterfalls, robber caves, and an enchanted prince. She's the most important person in her world, but her story is always the same. Just once she'd like to do a Great Good Thing, never mind her father's warning, "Where would we be if we all started playing parts that weren't written for us?"
Then she saw the woods. Beyond the trees that had always been in the book there were other ones, an entire other forest. When she heard the Reader's soft breathing, she realized that these woods were different than any she had seen before because they were part of the Reader's dreams. Instead of great oaks and beach trees there were ragged palms and plants with rubbery leaves.
Her obedience to her parents made her hesitate. They were probably wondering where she was right now. Still, when had any character had the chance to explore a Reader's dream? It was irresistible! She took a deep breath. "Here goes," she whispered, and stepped across.
The Great Good Thing is a gentle, funny story about stepping beyond our boundaries with courage and wonder.