Great Good Thing (Sylvie Cycle Series)by Roderick Townley, Stephanie Anderson, Stephanie Anderson
Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to live it very often.
Sylvie has been a twelve-year-old princess for more than eighty years, ever since the book she lives in was first printed. She's the heroine, and her story is exciting but that's the trouble. Her story is always exciting in the same way. Sylvie longs to get away and explore the/i>
Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to live it very often.
Sylvie has been a twelve-year-old princess for more than eighty years, ever since the book she lives in was first printed. She's the heroine, and her story is exciting but that's the trouble. Her story is always exciting in the same way. Sylvie longs to get away and explore the world outside the confines of her book.
When she breaks the cardinal rule of all storybook characters and looks up at the Reader, Sylvie begins a journey that not even she could have anticipated. And what she accomplishes goes beyond any great good thing she could have imagined...
Read an Excerpt
Part One: Sylvie Looks Up; Chapter One
Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to live it very often. What good were potions and disguises if no one came along to scare you or save you or kiss you behind the waterfall? Week after week nothing changed. Years went by. The sparkles on Sylvie's dress began to fade, and a fine dust coated the leaves, turning the green woods gray.
Once in a while, it looked as though something might happen. The ground trembled slightly, then nothing more. People got used to these disturbances. King Walther scarcely noticed. He sat about playing cards with the goatherd. Even the wolves stopped lurking and just lay in the heat, panting like house dogs. It got so that one day Sylvie sat down on a stone at the edge of the lake and wept.
"Come on," she whispered fiercely. "Come on! Something happen!"
At that moment, a fan of light began opening in a corner of the sky, sending flashes of color across the water. Sylvie wiped her eyes as the woods brightened. A breeze flew through the treetops, knocking against branches as it went.
"Rawwwwk! Reader! Reader!" cried an orange bird, bursting into the air.
"Booook open!" groaned a bullfrog. "Ooopen! Boook open!"
Sylvie sprang to her feet, excitement and fear catching in her throat. How far had she wandered? A distant trumpet sounded, and the forest echoed with clumping hooves, flapping wings, shouting knights, fluttering dowagers, all racing to get to their places.
Sylvie had the farthest to go all the way to page 3 but she knew the shortcuts between descriptions and arrived, hot-cheeked, just as a shadow moved over the land and the face of an enormous child peered down on her.
She didn't care for the look on that face it was a boy with a pouty lip but she could spare him no more than a glance. Her dialogue began right away.
"Father," she said, "I cannot marry Prince Riggeloff."
Her father was breathing hard. He'd had to run in heavy robes from page 13. "Not marry Riggeloff?" cried the king. Sweat stood on his pasty brow. "For heaven's sake, child, he is handsome, rich..."
"Kind, brave," continued Princess Sylvie. "Yes, I am aware of his qualities."
"He has everything."
"So have I," the girl replied, dodging around an illustration.
"You don't have a husband."
"Nor want one. I don't want anything," she said, her green eyes flashing, "except "
But Sylvie, who had arrived at the top of page 4, never got to say what it was she wanted. A gob of strawberry jam hurtled from the sky and landed with a splot, just two words in front of her, spattering her blue shoes. She looked up. The boy was biting into a peanut butter sandwich. He wasn't even listening!
"Dumb story," he humphed and, without bothering to wipe away the jam, he slammed the book shut and tossed it....Well, Sylvie could only imagine that he tossed it, for she found herself and King Walther and all the courtiers spinning around, then bumping to a stop at a backward angle. They waited in darkness, but the boy did not reappear.
"Watch out!" came the high, scratchy voice of Pingree the Jester. "Get off of me, you lunk!"
"Sorry," sounded the basso voice of the king's chief councillor.
"If only you had as much wit as you have width!"
The backup lights buzzed and flickered and came on. The sky, a storybook blue, appeared through the castle window, and the ladies-in-waiting picked themselves off the floor and righted their chairs.
The king was rubbing his hip. "Are you all right, child?"
"I suppose so," said Sylvie.
"One of these days we'll get a real Reader."
She gave him a doubtful look.
"We used to have them, lots of them," he said.
"Father, we never had lots of Readers."
"Well, we had good ones. They paid attention."
Sylvie mumbled something.
"What was that, dear?"
"Don't say that. This is a book. We have to say everything."
"I said, maybe they found something better to do than read our silly story."
Queen Emmeline had been gazing critically in a mirror, poking at her ruined hairdo. "Sylvie," she said in her warning voice.
"Never mind," said the king. "She knows it isn't true. The sun shines. Readers read."
Sylvie had heard all that before. It didn't make her feel any better.
"We have a big responsibility," the king went on.
"If it weren't for us "
"I know!" The princess smoothed the folds of her skirt and started toward the edge of the page. "I think I'll take a nap, if nobody minds."
Queen Emmeline glided up to her husband and laid her hand on his arm as Sylvie disappeared in the direction of page 6.
She found a comfy spot on the left-hand margin beside the seventh paragraph and rested her head on "grandiloquent," the largest adjective in sight. As her head sank into the stuffing, the earlier thought returned: What if Readers really did have other lives, lives that had nothing to do with her world? The idea went against everything she'd been taught.
The sun shines. Readers read. She nestled down and yawned. Soon her breathing softened as she drifted into a dream about Chapter Four, in which she sets out on her quest to regain the stolen treasure. As always, the dream went pretty much the way the story was written. Following the thieves' trail, she rode her donkey into the forest. In a clearing she came across a great tortoise ten feet across which local peasant boys had somehow overturned and left to die. Dark birds stared down from the trees. Sylvie tried to help, but the tortoise was too heavy. She used a long pole as a lever and tied a length of rope to her donkey. With her pushing and the donkey tugging, the tortoise finally thumped over onto its feet. It looked at her several long seconds with its great reptilian eyes, then disappeared in the undergrowth.
Sylvie traveled on. In the afternoon heat, she heard a high clicking sound and the beating of wings. Ahead, in a thornbush, a large snowy owl struggled. The more desperately it beat its wings, the deeper the thorns pierced its body. Bright red lines worked their way down the white feathers. Then Sylvie realized (as she always realized at this point in the story) that the bird's eyes were white, too. It was blind!
"Shh," Sylvie said in a soft voice. "Hush, little one."
The owl grew calmer, and Sylvie was able to stroke its back. She held the quivering bird and gently pulled away the thorns. With a cry the owl exploded into the air, circled her once, and flew north.
At last, her petticoats hopelessly dusty, Sylvie arrived at the cliffs overlooking the Mere of Remind. The waters of the Mere were usually calm, but now something was churning up waves close to the shore. An enormous fish of some kind, she thought, trapped by the receding tide. She hurried down to the water.
"There, there, fish," she said, extending her hand over the thrashing waves. "If you will calm down, I will help you." She reached below the surface and felt the scaly back of a great sea creature.
She waded in, stroking the fish all the while. It blended so perfectly with the water, it seemed invisible. "Come," she said. She bumped into the dorsal fin and gently pulled on it, guiding the fish to a place where it could wriggle over a sandbar and escape.
"Now!" she cried. The creature heaved itself up, and Sylvie pushed with all her strength while sand flew everywhere. In that moment, catching the last sunlight, the fish's sand-covered body was briefly visible. "Why, you're as big as a drawing room!" Sylvie gasped. Then it slammed back in the water and was gone.
She watched the flashing waves grow brighter and brighter, till she had to shield her eyes. The distant cliffs were turning transparent. What was happening? Then came the sound of screaming birds, and a low grumbling.
"Booook open! Oooopen!"
Sylvie woke from her dream in a panic. The page was flooded with light. She started running, already late. A face was peering down into the royal chamber, where the king was chewing on the end of his mustache and looking around anxiously.
"Father-I-cannot-marry-Prince-Riggeloff!" Sylvie gasped as she raced out onto the page.
"Not marry Riggeloff?" King Walther beamed, relieved to see her back in place. Then he caught himself and harrumphed. "For heaven's sake, child, he is handsome, rich..."
Sylvie had to lean against the wall to catch her breath. Her hand rested on a suit of armor. "Kind, brave, yes, I..." The armor started to scrape along the wall. "Yes, I..." she made a grab for it and missed "know!" she cried as the armor, with a stupendous crash, landed on the stone floor. "No! No!"
One of the ladies-in-waiting fainted dead away.
Somewhere someone started giggling.
"He has he has," started the king. He cast a worried glance at the large woman lying on the floor.
The giggling grew louder.
"Everything, yes I know," Sylvie said. "So do I."
"And so do I!" her father exclaimed.
"Of course you do!" cried Sylvie. "You're the king!"
"Where am I?" The lady-in-waiting, a round woman in a bulging ball gown, was struggling onto her elbow.
Pingree the Jester hid his face in his pointed hat.
"And you're the princess!" shouted the king to Sylvie. He put his hand to his brow. "What am I saying?"
The laughter grew louder. Sylvie glanced up, just for a second, and saw a huge face in the sky. A girl, she realized, one she hadn't seen before.
"Ah-ha-ha-ha!" the girl boomed out, gripping the sides of the book till the castle shook.
The laughter died away. The new Reader had turned the page and found 4 and 5 stuck together. Sylvie forgot the number one rule of all storybook characters: Never look at the Reader. It was a rule she had broken before, but this time she just stared up at the Reader, a plain-looking girl a bit younger than herself, with short brown curls and a mouth too wide for her face. She was prying the pages apart.
"That Ricky!" the girl cried. Then she closed the book and left the courtiers in darkness.
"Oh!" King Walther sighed in despair.
"Disaster!" the jester groaned, flicking dust from his jingling cap.
"She may come back," said the queen.
Sylvie and her father helped pull the lady-in-waiting to her feet as the backup lights sputtered and blinked on. No one spoke, or even looked at each other. Two disappointments in one day, after years of sitting on an undusted shelf. It was too much!
Copyright © 2001 by Roderick Townley
Meet the Author
Roderick Townley's first book about Sylvie, The Great Good Thing, was a Top-Ten Book Sense Pick, praised by Kirkus Reviews as "utterly winning...a book beloved from the first page." Its sequel, Into the Labyrinth, was hailed by the New York Times as "a hopping fine read." The present volume completes the Sylvie cycle.
Mr. Townley has also published the novel Sky, described by VOYA as "one hell of a book," as well as volumes of poetry, nonfiction, and literary criticism. He has two children, Jesse and Grace, and is married to author Wyatt Townley.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I cried. I don't often.
In the Great Good Thing by, Roderick Townley, we learn about the lives of characters in a story, who must face many obstacles. The main character's name is Sylvie, she plays a princess who loves adventure (that gets her in trouble a couple of times) Sylvie lives in a stry that is rearely read. However, the bok ends up finding a devoted reader, who reads the book every EVERY day. However, Sylvie and the other characters are forced to flee the story when a real fire occurs. They run past the book page edges into, the mind of the sleeping reader, Claire. The characters become thoughts inside of a human's head. Sylvie and her storybook characters end up being used as thoughts in dreams. It is run as if it was a t.v. production. Some of the characters have a tough time adjusting to the unplanned life, and not have a book written out for them to follow. As Claire grows older, she rarely dreams about the storybook characters. This causes them all to move from the mind to another place in Claire. They rebuild a castle and try to recreate their story. However things go wrong, an evil jester takes over the re-created castle and Claire is growing old and sickly. Plus, who nows what happens to thoughts once the mind thier living in dies? To find ut read on. Some things I liked about this book are its clever dialouge. It's a not right out there in your face kind-of funny but more of a reading between the lines funny. For exaple a charcter says nt for the castle to loose it's shape. He means for it nt to be forgotten or messed up. However, we learn that the castle is lso on a slant so it is the wrong shape. I also like the book in a book concept, it was witty, and enjoyable. A couple things i didn't like was that at times it could be a little confusing. Whether which person was saying what. Also, I didnt really get to know tha character's as mich as i would've liked to. The authors writing sytle is written in the point of veiw of third person. His sentences tend to be on the shorter side and are easy to comprehend. The words are also roughly easy to undersatnd. I also think that the dialogue was true to the character, all of them are very proper because they are from the storybook kingdom. I would reccomend this book to kids from ages 10-13, and mostly to girls. I reccomend this to girls more because it is a fairtale and it has to do with princesses and kingdoms. I, being a 12 year old girl, loved this book. If you enjoyd it you will also enjoy Once Apon a Curse, it is similar and witty. I REALLY liked this book!
As a lover books of all kinds, I very much enjoyed this story. I bought this copy for a niece for christmas, but read it myself and to a sixth grade class I was student teaching for about 6 years ago. The students really liked it. The ending is very thought provoking. I didn't know that this was only one in a series and I'm excited to read the others. A great read for those who have read and loved Alice in Wonderland and the Inkheart Trilogy.
This is a fairy tales you have probably never read before. It's about a story book princess who wants more than being in her story. Claire, the owner of the book has been falling asleep near the boundaries of the book, and Sylvie has been going into her dreams. This was the first ever book I had actually loved, and helped me read more. A great book for all ages.
This is a story within a story. Princess Sylvie is trapped in a book, reliving the same story for 80 years or so, each time a Reader opens the book. When the book is set on fire and burns to a crisp, the princess and many of the other characters flee, crossing over into a Reader's mind, where they become part of her subconscious. Interesting concept, clunky and sometimes boring execution. Some cute moments. I think a different writer could have gone far with this idea.
This book is about a girl who lives in a kingdom in a story book. In this land there are many rules like don't look at the reader and etc.... Silvia is always doing things she's not supposed to. Later on she becomes a friend to one of her readers and has adventures. I liked this book because it was exciting and fun.
This story surpassed any previous story I had ever read. In a mere four hours I had finished the book, and stared in awe as I closed the pages of this masterpiece. I was massively impressed by the intricate details and outstanding plot. Roderick Townley is indeed a magnificent author and his works will stay within the hearts of reviewers for generations to come. I am overcome with excitement to read Townley's sequel, 'Into the Labyrinth.' I encourage all aspiring authors to read and re-read 'The Great Good Thing'; a fairy-tale-like plot that gives one a perspective anew on life.
When I first read this, it took me only a few hours to get through the 216 pages of the book. It has become a new favorite of mine, one I have constantly read over and over. This story is near impossible to summerize, but basically, it's about Princess Sylvie, the main character in a dusty old storybook entitled, 'The Great Good Thing'. She loves her story, and her world, but she longs for new adventures. And when she wanders into a little girl's dream, she finds herself in one of the most interesting stories of all, in which her world is altered many times, and only with the help of her story's first Reader-the little girl with the dark blue eyes- and some courage can she save her story from being lost forever. A literary joy, I've never read such a clever and inventive book. I should also mention this- keep your eyes on paragraph numbers, page numbers, and the placement of characters for the first few chapters. You'll notice something...interesting if you do. You should read this book because it is a whole new experiance and also because, just like life, you never know what this book will throw at you next.
This is one of the best books I have ever read! It looks as if it is a fairy tale (which I don't like) but it really isn't. I think it is a truley inexplainibal yet wonderful book. The first few chapters are confusing, but you soon get a hang of the story! This is one of the rare books I would want to rate more than 5 stars! It is a wonderful story for adaults and children 10 and up alike.
This is an excelent book for children and grown-ups alike! Parents, prepare to enjoy story time even more. The Great Good Thing sweeps you into the very heart of the imaginative spirit and gives you the ride of your life. It is such a wonderful idea: the life of a story book character! The book is a breath of fresh air and a new and facinating idea. This is an amazing book that you will want to read again and again.
I was stuck in the book when I read it. It made me laugh, cry, and experience all my emotions. Bravo!!!!
all i can say is What a book!!!! this books deserves a million stars if i had it my way. it is very imaginative.
I'm a seventeen year old fan of children's literature, and let me tell you, this book is good. I've never read anything quite like it. The author plays with the reader's imagination in ways unlike anything I've ever encountered.The plot of the story revolves around Princess Sylvie, the main character of a storybook, and what she does when no one is reading the book. The author does clever things, like describing how Sylvie ran to the top of page four, right on the top of page four. This book is a touching story for children to read, but also more than worth it for adults. I would recommend it to anyone who ever wanted to become a fairytale character themself.
This story reveals the mystery of imagination and the sources that sustain it throughout the generations. If you were ever read to as a child, and can still recapture the magic of a grownup's voice pouring forth a well-read tale, this book will resonate with you; but, if you yourself make up a fairy tale for a child, then wonder what part of yourself it came from, The Great Good Thing will bridge you back to a long-lost place of play so many deny themselves. What a wonderful book. Thank you, Roderick Townley!
I've never read anything quite like this book, and had a wonderful time doing it. The author plays with the reader much as he plays with his characters. Funny, touching, exciting, and sentimental all at once. Highly recommended.