The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton, 2016
Children’s novel for grades 4-8; fantasy, adventure, humor
The boy is a slave with no name. But then he is set on the run against his will when a fellow slave kills the master’s son. When he briefly joins a group of travelers, he discovers and rescues a goblin. Meanwhile, Plain Alice is a girl who wants to become a sage. She is carried off by a dragon who mistakes her for the princess Alice. Plain Alice escapes, only to be captured by an ogre. Then the boy comes along. He rescues Plain Alice from the ogre, then rescues Princess Alice from the dragon who has found her after all, and finally rescues everyone from Duke Geoffrey, who seeks to take over the kingdom.
This may all sound like a fairly stereotypical fantasy story, but the humor and use of language, not to mention the mind games centered around the goblin, make this book especially appealing, if not unique. It’s also fairly philosophical in its discussion of fate, justice, and the injustice of slavery. Although it’s written at about a fifth-grade reading level, (at least if that particular fifth grader doesn’t mind a few “big words,” a little violence, and an implication of romance) the ideas are mature enough to appeal to older readers.
Chilton’s skillful world-building also deserves a mention. Although the expository passages are few and brief enough that the story maintains a quick pace and an action-paced vibe, readers have a clear sense of the way this world works. The role of slaves, the relative socioeconomic statuses of the primary characters, the traditions and folklore of the world, and the natures of the various types of mythical creatures in the story are all fleshed out fully.
I would recommend this book for middle schoolers or avid readers in fourth or fifth grade. It would also serve very well as a family read-aloud.
Additional information for teachers and parents:
Lexile Score: 710L
Other leveled reading information is currently not available. Please keep in mind that Lexile scores are estimates based on an algorithm that does not take all possible factors into consideration. This is an example of a book that is more advanced than the Lexile score indicates.