The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio

by Lloyd Alexander

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A beautiful Kirkassi girl, cold-eyed villains and smiling killers, a bazaar merchant peddling slightly used dreams—could any young adventurer ask for more? Not Carlo Chuchio, who is seeking hidden treasure on the legendary Road of Golden Dreams.

With Baksheesh, the world's worst camel-puller, Carlo leads a caravan through the realm of Keshavar. Robbed of all but his underdrawers, mistaken for a mighty warrior and then for a crown prince, Carlo risks his life for a prize that may not even exist.

Newbery medalist Lloyd Alexander weaves a glorious tale of adventure, love, and the treasures that matter most.

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429986731
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 08/07/2007
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Lloyd Alexander (1924-2007) was the author of more than forty books for children and adults, including the beloved children's fantasy series, the Chronicles of Prydain, one of the most widely read series in the history of fantasy and the inspiration for the animated Disney film, The Black Cauldron. His books have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal, the Newbery Honor, and the National Book Award for Juvenile Literature.

Lloyd Alexander (1924-2007) was the author of more than forty books for children and adults, including the beloved children's fantasy series, the Chronicles of Prydain, one of the most widely read series in the history of fantasy and the inspiration for the animated Disney film, The Black Cauldron. His books have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal, the Newbery Honor, and the National Book Award for Juvenile Literature.

Read an Excerpt


When the world starts falling about your ears and intensely disagreeable things are happening to you, it's always a comfort to blame somebody else. But — who? In my case, not Uncle Evariste. No, he did the sensible thing. Certainly not my fellow clerks and scriveners. None of it was their fault. I'm casting around trying to think of someone other than myself.

Ah. I have it. Of course. The bookseller. If he ever existed in the first place. But I know he did. Should I curse him? Or thank him for all that came later?

To begin, then, on a sparkling blue afternoon in our port city of Magenta. I had taken a stack of receipts and shipping records for deposit with Casa Galliardi, the merchant bankers. It was no more than a few hundred yards from my uncle's office and warehouse, but such errands took a long time. Instead of promptly going back, I would loiter at the docks.

Moored at the wharves or anchored in the harbor, there must have been anything and everything that could float: cargo vessels; often a galleon big as a house; long, slender craft with three-cornered sails; a flock of little fishing boats. Our Isle of Serrano was a horn of plenty, overflowing with fruits and vegetables to feed mainland Campania. But our real cash crop came from Eastern ports. Silk. Jade. Carpets. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg — I could smell them in the air. Uncle Evariste imported and resold these precious goods. He did well. Except for me.

When he had nothing more urgent to do, he would yell. Usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. He was a methodical man.

"Carlo, Carlo, what's to become of you?" he would burst out. Then, once he got into the spirit of the occasion, he would pull his beard with one hand and fling the other heavenward.

"Why? What have I done to be plagued with a thankless daydreamer? Eh? Eh? I'm asking. You tell me."

"Truly, Uncle," I said, though his question was not specifically directed to me, "I don't know."

I was, in fact, more or less grateful to him. He and my father had been partners until, years ago, a vicious fever took away my parents along with many of our islanders. Uncle Evariste gave me board and lodging; and, such as it was, my occupation in life.

"Oh, I've seen you — don't think I haven't," he ranted on. "Sitting with your nose in some book of rubbish. Like an idiot. Carlo Chuchio — Carlo the jackass. The dimwit. Carlo the chooch."

Here, he used the vulgar street pronunciation of "chuchio." He thrust his beard at me. "Do you know? That's what they call you behind your back."

"Sometimes to my face," I said.

"Keep on like that," he said. "You'll amount to — to what? Nothing!"

Then he would go off muttering to himself. And that was mainly all we had to say to each other.

Now, the bookseller. Yes, that day. On my long way back from Casa Galliardi, I left the quayside, the sailors bawling in every language, and wandered through the market square. My mouth watered at the mounds of blood oranges, lemons, figs, olives. The best on the island. (We sold the second best to Campania.)

Next to the melon vendor stood an open-air bookstall with an array of old engravings pinned to a length of clothesline. Shelves leaned every which way, with shabby volumes crammed one against the other. Surprisingly, I had never before noticed it. Naturally, I had to stop.

Rubbing his hands, the bookseller stepped over to me. A little man with a stringy beard, a narrow, beaky face. A total stranger.

"My good messire," he began. "And what does the worthy gentleman fancy?" He spoke with an unfamiliar accent. I said nothing. For one thing, I was taken aback — but hardly displeased — at being called a worthy gentleman. For another, I had no idea what I fancied.

"A tractatus on mathematics? Military engineering? No? Geometry? Architecture? No, again?" He gestured at the sagging shelves. "Perhaps the art of writing love letters, with examples to be copied. Useful phrases for every circumstance, to woo your lady fair."

He drew closer, cocking his head, studying me like a tailor calculating my measurements for a suit of clothes.

"No, messire, I see none that fits."

I was about to turn away when his eyes lit up. He snapped his fingers.

"Of course. Exactly."

Without looking, he reached behind him and pulled a small, thick volume from a shelf. The leather cover was scuffed, the stitching had come loose. The pages were mottled and dog-eared, nearly falling out of the binding. He fondled it with obvious affection.

"A curious collection of old tales. I promise you will find it most enjoyable."

He pressed the book into my hands. Truth to tell, I wasn't all that much interested. After a few moments, though, I wasspellbound. I couldn't take my eyes away. Leafing through, I saw these were tales of amazing voyages, carpets that flew in the air, caves of glittering treasures. If, at first, I had no idea what I fancied, I knew now. This.

The bookseller must have sensed my excitement. He beamed and bobbed his head. "A gentleman of fine taste and judgment. A rare volume, messire. And what a joy to match the perfect book with the perfect reader. These days, alas, it seldom happens.

"For you," he went on, "I make a special price. Less than I paid. But, after all, what is profit?" He sighed. "And yet — and yet I hate to part with it."

"You won't have to," I told him.

He blinked at me. "Eh? Why so?" I answered simply and sadly that I had no money.

His smile collapsed. "There's the trouble with these young gallants," he muttered. "Empty pockets. It's a contagious disease."

I would have given back the volume, but he raised his hands.

"Ah — no. You like it too well. I haven't the heart — aie, my generous nature will be the ruin of me. So, so — Keep it, then. Yours. Free."

I had to protest — a little. Purely as a formality. My refusal was neither strong nor convincing. Especially since I did not loosen my grip on this prize and had no sincere intention of doing so. When he disregarded my feeble show of reluctance, I deluged him — several times over — with wholehearted thanks for his kindness.

"That remains to be seen," he said. "Go away. Before I come to my senses and change my mind."

Never had I made the journey back to the office at such breathtaking speed. Not that I was eager to do my work. I could not wait to examine my gift more closely.

The copying clerks, Simone and Melchiorre, dutifully scribbling away, barely glanced at me. I climbed onto my stool, pushed aside the bills of lading, the manifests and inventories, and plunged into the book. It was even more thrilling than I'd supposed.

To the shock and astonishment of my colleagues, I stayed perched at my desk until sundown. They left me still poring over the tales.

At dinnertime, with my prize tucked safely inside my jacket, I pleaded vaporish ailments, a headache, an upset stomach, and begged to be excused from the evening meal. Uncle Evariste, mumbling something like "What a chooch," was glad enough to grant my request.

I bounded up to my quarters in the low-ceilinged attic, lit the candle on the table beside my cot, and flung myself onto the straw mattress. In case I had missed so much as a word here and there, I began reading again from the first page.

Later, Silvana, our housekeeper, worried I might be fatally ill or starving to death, carried in a tray of leftovers. Seeing me alive but preoccupied, she warned me to stop whatever I was up to or I would do myself a mischief, and went back downstairs.

I had never suffered from lack of appetite; nor been so caught up by tales of gigantic birds, genies popping out of lamps to grant every wish. How to choose between eating and reading? I resolved that knotty question by doing both at the same time.

The pages, however, kept falling loose. They soon parted company with the cracked leather binding. The spine had split down the middle. It was then I noticed something had been stuffed into it.

It was a rolled piece of parchment covered with crisscrossing lines and squiggles. A diagram? A map of some sort? But I saw no directions, no bearings. Curious, I laid aside the book to study it.

I realized I had been looking at the back of the sheet. When I turned the parchment over and smoothed it out, I saw indications of mountain ranges, rivers, towns.

At first, I judged it too vague to have any use or meaning. But, no, as far as it went, it was fairly precise. There was an inset drawn at one corner, an enlargement of a portion of the area. My heart began racing.

It showed, in some detail, what appeared to be a city of considerable size — or what had once been a city. The sketch depicted only the ruins of a wall circling the jagged stump of a tower, perhaps a fortress, and the rubble of a central square. What set my heart pounding was a notation in a spidery, almost unreadable hand: "Royal Treasury." That was enough to make my thoughts gallop as fast as my pulse. I had, by now, convinced myself this was a map of hidden riches. If my book was a treasure, I had found yet another treasure inside it.

But there was a difficulty.

Whoever drew the map had known the region very well; so well, indeed, he had not troubled to name the location. What city? What mountain range? What lake? What river? They could have been anywhere in the world.

My candle guttered out. I lit another. I tried to stay calm and make sense of what I was dealing with. My eyes fell on a single word squeezed onto the edge of the parchment.

That word was "Marakand."

Then everything fell into place. I understood exactly what I was seeing. I had handled enough shipping papers to know Marakand, across the sea from Magenta, was the great trading center in the Land of Keshavar and the gateway to the Far East. I was holding nothing less than a map of the main route to the fabled realm of Cathai. Called the "Road of Golden Dreams," it had made the fortune of so many merchants who'd traveled it. Everything Uncle Evariste imported came one way or another by way of this Road of Golden Dreams.

Despite my spinning head, I had begun shaping a plan. I put aside all trivial questions. What if the map's original owner had gone back and dug up this vast wealth? No, I had his map; and, for all I knew, he was likely dead. What if someone else had accidentally stumbled upon it? I denied that possibility. What was in the royal treasury? Gold? Diamonds? How to carry it home? How long would it take? Mere details.

My plan was simple and straightforward. When I showed my uncle what I'd found, he would eagerly launch an expedition. Since the map belonged to me, naturally I would be the leader. And claim the lion's share. There would be more than enough to go around.

We would be rich beyond imagination. And I? Carlo Chuchio? Carlo the Donkey? No. Carlo Milione. Carlo the Millionaire.

I began laughing and hugging myself. Then I stopped short. In the midst of this golden dream, a thought wormed its way into my head. I tried to pay it no mind, but it grew bigger by the moment. I had discovered something that shattered every hope. In the blink of an eye, it threatened to snatch away my fortune even before I had it in my hands.


What I discovered was: my conscience. I never had much occasion to use my conscience. I never suspected I actually owned one. Evidently, I did. I did not like it. It was making my head hurt and my stomach turn queasy.

It kept jabbing at me. A question about the map. Conscience insisted it did not belong to me. I disagreed. We had a not-very-friendly conversation.

Myself: "You're talking nonsense. The bookseller gave it to me. Free. A gift. He said so."

Conscience: "Wrong. He gave you the book. He didn't give you the map."

"He did, too," I protested. "He gave me the book. The map was in the book. It comes to the same thing."

"Does it?" Conscience said slyly. "Answer me this: Did he realize it was there?"

I mentally shrugged. "How should I know? Maybe not."

"Maybe not?" said Conscience. "Probably not?"

"All right, then: Probably not."

"Say, rather: Most certainly not. He gave you the book out of kindness and generosity. He had no intention of giving you the map. It was a mistake, an accident."


"Let me put it this way," said Conscience. "Suppose you gave your old coat to a freezing beggar. And suppose you'd forgotten some gold pieces in the pocket. You'd want them back, wouldn't you?"

"Of course."

"Now we're getting somewhere. Very good. So. What are you going to do?"

"Keep the map," I said.

"You're disgusting," said Conscience. "You haven't understood a word —"

"What do you want from me?" I said. "I'm a chooch."

"Even a chooch can do the right thing. Sometimes, at least. Tell me, have you ever had a piece of grit in your eye? And you rub and rub, but you can't get it out? And only make it worse? I promise you'll have a piece of grit that won't go away. It's going to sting and smart every day for the rest of your life."

"Get out," I said. "Let me be."

I fell back on my cot and slept. Badly. Next morning, I went to the market square with the map in my pocket.

The fruit and vegetable dealers had just set up their stands. I walked — not quickly — past the old woman and her display of melons. I had my hand on the map, ready to give it to the bookseller.

I saw no sign of him.

It must have been too early. I asked the melon vendor what time her neighbor would arrive. She recognized me, she had seen me on my errands; and, in Magenta, everyone knows everyone else's business.

"Bookseller?" She gave me an odd look. "What bookseller?"

The one, I said, with a stall next to her own.

"Nobody like that." She kept shaking her head as I insisted I had been there only yesterday. Had he moved somewhere else? Where could I find him?

"What are you blabbering about?" she said. "No bookseller. I'm here thirty years. I should know if there's a bookseller. No such person. Not yesterday. Not now. Never."

I was running short of patience. "I bought something from him — that is, he gave me something. Right there. That very spot."

"Don't waste my time." She went back to arranging the melons. "What a fool," she said under her breath. "Poor uncle, such a burden for him. But, nothing to be done about it. There's a chooch in every family."

What she had told me puzzled and, at first, troubled me. I thought it over and finally understood. There was a simple explanation: The bookseller had opened his stall within the past day or two. She hadn't noticed. His trade had been too slow; he changed to a better location. I walked all around the marketplace, up and down the side streets. Not a trace. No question, he was gone. He could have left Magenta altogether.

Satisfied I had done my duty — my conscience was keeping its mouth shut — I hurried to the office, eager to put my plans in motion.

No sooner did I set foot inside than Melchiorre stepped up. My uncle, he announced, demanded my presence immediately. He was grinning so happily I expected to be yelled at, though it was only Thursday. I was unworried. As soon as he learned what I had in mind, my offense, whatever it was, would be forgotten.

I found Uncle Evariste hunched over the table in his counting room. Beside him, black-robed, looking like a melancholy crow, stood Messire Bagatìn, his accountant.

Since Uncle Evariste didn't pull his beard or yell, I suspected this might be serious.

"You," he said, in a voice icy enough to give me gooseflesh, "you've ruined me."

Before I could ask what he meant, he pressed on:

"You've made mistakes before. I put up with them for the sake of your parents. But not this time. With your daydreaming and woolgathering — do you know what you've done? Of course not.

"I'll tell you," he said between his teeth. "You mixed up the accounts. Idiot. You got them backward.

"You wrote down the money I made as if it were money I owed. Yesterday, when you took the receipts to Casa Galliardi, you listed my assets as liabilities. Do you have the least glimmer of the mess you made? Bagatìn can straighten it out — but who knows how long it will take? As far as the bankers are concerned, my account stands at zero. My assets will be frozen. I'll have to borrow money. At ruinous interest. Meantime, I have nothing."

That was all? I gave a sigh of relief. Only a temporary disaster.

"Uncle," I said, "never mind that. I'll make a fortune for us. A thousand times over."

I brought out the map and handed it to him.

He squinted at it for a moment. In a pinched voice, he said: "Where did you get it?"

"From a bookseller," I began. "What happened, you see —"

"Happened? Happened? Who cares?" Uncle Evariste flung at me. "Where is this fellow?"

"In the marketplace," I said. "That is, he was. I went back and looked all over for him. I couldn't find him again. He's gone somewhere else."


Now the yelling began.

"Make a fortune?" Uncle Evariste cried. "With this? If I had a ducat for every one of these I've seen in my time, I'd be a rich man. A fraud! A ridiculous fake! Trash like this is floating everywhere. For sale to gullible jackasses. How much did you pay?"

"Well, nothing —"

"Exactly what it's worth."


Excerpted from "The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio"
by .
Copyright © 2007 the Estate of Lloyd Alexander.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

I Shira,
II The Karwan-Bushi,
III The Bazaar of All Dreams,
IV The Crown Prince of Ferenghi-Land,

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The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
AshRyan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's hard to review anything else by Lloyd Alexander without comparing it to his Prydain Chronicles. In this case, the obvious similarities make it impossible. Like them, this is set in an imaginary realm based more or less on some real one---in this case, the world of the Arabian Nights rather than Welsh mythology. And this too follows a young adventurer on a quest with a ragtag band of companions.Of course, there are also many differences. This seems to be written for a slightly older audience, at least than The Book of Three, as the story is somewhat more complex than in those books, at least taken individually. Unfortunately, in other ways it doesn't stand up well to the comparison---the story isn't quite as memorable, the characters not quite as engaging, the ending a bit more of a disappointment. Still, this is a decent adventure story, and I think most kids would enjoy it.
witteafval on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the greatest weakness of The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio is that it is written from a first-person point of view, lessening the suspense one might feel whenever its protagonist finds himself in dire circumstances. Such an objection is merely a matter of personal taste, however. Admirers of Lloyd Alexander's works will find much to enjoy in the course of this, his last story.The time period the story is set in is unspecified, though it would be no surprise if our titular character had been a contemporary of Marco Polo. Carlo begins his story employed by his uncle, an accountant in the Italian region of Campania--though the city of Magenta in which they live is not to be confused with the real Italian city of that name, located in the north at the base of the Alps.Carlo is given a book of presumably Arabian tales by a mysterious stranger, as well as a map which was hidden in the book's binding. The map points to a fortress of lost treasure, which Carlo's intuition tells him must be real. So he sets out across the sea, determining to follow the Road of Golden Dreams which lead from the eastern Mediterranean shore to Cathai (China).Upon reaching land, he makes the acquaintance of a trio of characters who accompany him on his journey: Baksheesh, a self-serving, slick-talking and thick-skinned street urchin who volunteers his services as Carlo's camel-puller and never uses an appellation twice. Shira, a girl of half-Arab and half-Oriental blood seeking to know what became of her home and family. And Salomon, a wandering philosopher of the finest Socratean tradition, who in temperament and appearance brings to mind Shepherd Book of the TV series Firefly, but is an even match for Alexander's own Rhun son of Rhuddlum in curiosity.A colorful cast of supporting characters help or hinder them on their journey, a journey which Salomon reminds them is just as important as their destinations. In their own ways, they each encounter bandits, eccentrics, serendipitous twists of fate, visions, intrigue, starvation, beauty, love, and more. The moments of self-discovery each character experiences are well earned and quite satisfying.Going into the book with the awareness that it was Lloyd Alexander's last, it evokes some rather poignant feelings. The tone can be found of a master storyteller in the twilight of his life, if one looks for it. Unlike the brash ambition and high ideals of Taran, Alexander's main protagonist in his superlative Prydain Chronicles, Carlo Chuchio's story is told by a man not seeking a climactic finale to his life's work, but was simply content to tell the kind of story he told best through decades of experience. One could appropriately liken them to the two horn concertos of Richard Strauss; the first written by a talented youth ready to share his great ideas with the world, and the second written by the seasoned composer who has little to prove, but still something worth saying.Rife with a warm humor, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio thus serves as an uplifting coda to a great writer's body of works. May all who read it realize their own pleasant, golden dreams.
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