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No Castles Here

No Castles Here

4.0 1
by A.C.E. Bauer

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AUGIE BORETSKI KNOWS how to get by. If you're a scrawny loser in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the drug dealers and thugs, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be good at that, but suddenly his life is changing. . . .

First, Augie accidentally steals a strange book of fairy tales. Then his mom makes him


AUGIE BORETSKI KNOWS how to get by. If you're a scrawny loser in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the drug dealers and thugs, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be good at that, but suddenly his life is changing. . . .

First, Augie accidentally steals a strange book of fairy tales. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brothers program and the chorus. And two bullies try to beat him up every day because of it. Just when it seems like things can't get any worse, an ice storm wrecks Augie's school. The city plans to close the school, abandoning one more building to the drug addicts. But Augie has a plan. For the first time in his life, Augie Boretski is not going down without a fight.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
Augie lives in Camden, N.J., with his single mom. As a small, bespectacled white boy, he does not exactly fit it with his mostly black classmates. Most days, he simply endures, trying to avoid trouble. Then one day, he takes a train to Philadelphia without his mother's permission. There, he discovers a bookstore and, inside, a magical book. This opens a world of fantasy to him that at times crosses over to the real world. In the pages of this book, Augie meets the magic fairy Louisa and her progeny. Because fairies live much longer than humans, Louisa's story starts in another century and moves forward through time. As Augie advances through his sixth-grade year, his strong male teacher and a "big brother" that Augie reluctantly lets into his life help him to see that he must fight his own battles and cannot let others dictate with whom he spends his time. By combining realistic fiction with a sprinkling of fantasy, Bauer addresses issues of bullying, homosexuality, single parenting, and the inner-city educational system. All is done with two different voices, the voice of young Augie telling his own story and the voice of the fairy tale that Augie reads throughout the course of the year. Reviewer: Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
Kirkus Reviews
Bauer balances tone and content beautifully in this superb debut. Eleven-year-old Augie Boretski doesn't expect the Big Brother program to do him any good, but that's before he meets Walter. The man could definitely be a good friend to a lonely boy, but there's danger. Growing up in Camden, N.J., "the armpit of the world," Augie's an easy target for bullies and if anyone found out that Walter is gay, it could be unspeakably dangerous for him. Yet when his public school shuts down after a winter accident, it's Augie who has the sense and courage to rally the neighborhood and bring it back to full health. The guidance of the strong adults around him gives the boy the courage to overcome his personal demons. Alternating Augie's story with some fairy tales he finds in a book, Bauer shows that there's no easy escape from gritty reality or any magic solution to bullying. Complex characters and an infinitely readable text make this one of the strongest titles of the year. (Fiction. 9-13)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007:
"Complex characters and an infinitely readable text make this one of the strongest titles of the year."

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
386 KB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Crossing the River

Augie Boretski snuck out.

“Stay in,” Mom had said before leaving for work. “I’ll be home by six.”

Stay in? On a super muggy, one-hundred-degree day in August? Their second-floor apartment had to be at least one hundred and twenty, even with the rickety fan going full blast.

The old lady downstairs stopped him as he opened the front door.

“Your mama, she worry.”

Augie shrugged. What did Mrs. Lorentushki know, wearing her long-sleeved dress and flowery apron on a day like today?

“I’ll be okay,” he said before letting the screen door slam shut.

Besides, Mom didn’t have to worry. He wasn’t sticking around this neighborhood.

He counted the change in his bulging shorts pockets, checking one last time that he had enough to make it to Philly and back. He was getting out of here. Out of Camden. The armpit of the world, he thought, home to losers and drug dealers. Philadelphia sparkled across the Delaware River from the Camden waterfront. The buildings looked like castles, with spires and promise.

He walked the ten blocks to the Ferry Street station. At eleven in the morning, Augie didn’t fear the gangs. He fed his coins to the ticket machine and boarded the train. He had escaped! Within minutes, he climbed out of the 13th Street station, ready to explore the big city without his mom there, fussing.

Walking down Locust Street, Augie passed one tall building after another, each looming above him like a fortress with its drawbridge up. Cars zoomed past, but except for one man in a business suit and one woman in a crisp dress, the sidewalks were empty. The buildings became shorter and turned to brick. Waves of heat rose from the concrete. Then he noticed the side streets.

Unlike the wide avenues he’d been crossing, these side streets were narrow, with small gardens, gnarled trees, and sometimes a barbecue grill. He turned into one full of shade. Shiny white teeth peeked out from a store window.

White teeth?

He stared at the display. The teeth belonged to a large toy donkey, with round eyes and a red-and-gold blanket on its back. The animal brayed at a doll dressed like a princess, who crouched to pick flowers. Curiosity pulled him into the shop.

After the door closed behind him with a tinkling of bells, Augie realized that he should have paid more attention to the books he had seen at the princess’s feet. What was he going to do in a bookstore?

He spun around, lifted his arm to pull the door open, and paused. He felt his wet T-shirt unpeel from his back. His neck prickled as beads of sweat cooled in the air-conditioning. Nice. He could use a break from the sun. He let his arm drop and turned back around. What was he going to do in a bookstore?

He’d never been in a bookstore before. There were none in his Camden neighborhood. The closest shop was a bodega two blocks away that cashed checks and sold milk and bread. Aspirin and razor blades were kept behind bulletproof Plexiglas, along with cigarettes. Augie never hung around there—the owner rushed people in and out, saying, “This ain’t no museum.”

This bookstore was entirely different.

It had an unhurried quiet that Augie liked. The quiet wasn’t awful, like in the classroom when everyone prayed someone else was going to be called upon. There was no edge to this quiet. People moved about, minding their own business, at ease with each other.

“Thank you, Louisa,” a customer said to a tall, African American woman with her dark hair pulled into a knot. She smiled, and her gray eyes shifted for a second and focused on Augie.

Augie ducked into an aisle. He didn’t want to be noticed. He had gone only a few paces when he saw a deep chair with enormous cushions in faded black leather. On its seat lay a dark green book with gold letters etched into the cover. He lifted the book, sank into the chair, and pushed his glasses back up his nose. Aaah . . . He looked up. On the wall next to him hung a yellowed picture of a dignified African American gentleman in a three-piece suit with a straw hat and a cane. He sat under a tree next to a stately white woman in a long, pale lace dress, her hair piled up high with a tiny hat perched forward on top of her head. They stared at him, as if amused by his presence.

“What are you looking at?” Augie asked them.

The shopkeeper seemed to answer him: “I have several volumes covering mollusks over here.”

She was leading a customer in Augie’s direction. He opened the book he still held, as if he were interested. Maybe she wouldn’t notice him with his nose buried in a book.

Augie didn’t like to read. He read whatever he was told to read at school—most of the time. At home, he watched the few TV channels they could catch, or sang along with music on the radio. They didn’t own any real books—none that he remembered.

But something odd happened when he cracked open that green spine. The very first page had a picture of the braying donkey from the store window, but this time it held its tail high. It pooped golden coins into a silver bowl held by a king in crimson robes. The princess was nowhere to be seen.


He turned the page. The first letter of the first word was an elaborate L with green vines all around it and a donkey head peeking out from behind it. The words were crisp black on a creamy white. He touched them with the tips of his fingers. It made no sense. They almost felt alive.

Augie was eleven and a half. This was his time for adventure. He hadn’t figured it would begin in a bookstore.

He started reading.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

A.C.E. Bauer spends most of the year in Cheshire, Connecticut, and much of the summer on a lake in Quebec. She lives with her husband, two children, and their dog, Speedy. No Castles Here is her first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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No Castles Here 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Not like many others around him, Augie is pretty different, mostly because of the way he looks. He isn't too fond of school and his teachers, and now that his only friend has moved away, there is no one left to stand up for him.

There are plenty of things Augie never thought he would do. Walking into a bookstore was one of them. But seeing a display with a donkey and a princess in the window, for some reason, captivated him. He plops himself down on a random couch that happens to have a book. Not just any book, though -- this book just so happens to have the same characters that Augie saw in the window.

And just like how Augie was swept into the store, he sweeps himself out of the world he wanted to forget, and into a world full of fantasy and adventure.

Yet, Augie doesn't know that by reading this book, his entire life just changed. From wanting to help his school to actually standing up for himself and others against those who were never nice, to having a sort of fairy godmother, Augie's life will just never be the same again... for the better.

Alternating through Augie's life and the adventure novel he reads, NO CASTLES HERE is that one book which makes us feel glad that we picked it up. Augie isn't just any normal character; he is one that we can all look up to and learn that the only way we are able to accomplish something is if we are willing to take that first step.