The King in the Window

Adam Gopnik, Author . Hyperion/Miramax $19.95 (412p) ISBN 978-0-7868-1862-4

Gopnik's (Paris to the Moon , for adults) first offering for young readers is ambitious, complex and overly long. Oliver Parker, 11, an American boy in Paris, is vaguely unhappy. His father, a correspondent for a New York newspaper, is preoccupied; his French schoolmasters exacting, and his closest friend, Neige, sullen. His boredom ends instantly when, wearing the gold-paper crown he won on Epiphany for finding the prize inside a cake, he is mistaken for the monarch of the title, whose destiny is to free the "wraiths" of Versailles. These spirits, French luminaries including Molière, Racine and the inventor of mayonnaise, have been trapped in the palace's windows for centuries by the evil "Master of the Mirrors." So while Oliver's father is consumed with reporting a story about a computer project soon to be unveiled at the Eiffel Tower, Oliver is engaged in a battle of epic proportions that climaxes at the same tower in the moments before the project's launch. The plot incorporates threads about quantum physics, Alice in Wonderland, skateboarding and 17th-century France's obsession with plate glass. There's wit (e.g., Oliver finds French history confusing since all the kings are named Louis and the only way to tell them apart is by "the style of furniture they liked"), but a lot of it is aimed at adults, as are references to Yoko Ono's singing, wine expert Robert Parker, book royalties, etc. The resolution, though well-orchestrated, is dizzyingly complicated. Think of this as Harry Potter for the Mensa set. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/12/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 410 pages - 978-0-7868-3894-3
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