Roderick Townley, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $17 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84324-2

In his clever, deftly written first novel for young readers, Townley gives life to Princess Sylvie and her cohorts, characters from an out-of-print and rarely read fairy tale, by having them cross over to the dreams of Readers. In this new context, the characters must perform without scripts, and so imagine stories beyond their own. For 12-year-old Sylvie, this is a venue to break out of her safe and "storied" life as an obedient girl and become the heroine of the kingdom. This narrative line is interwoven with the story of three generations of woman Readers who cherish the original tale. Sylvie and her friends, with the help of a "first" Reader, known as the girl with "dark blue eyes," cross from her granddaughter's dreams to her great granddaughter's to preserve the story, The Great Good Thing. The title takes on a double meaning—it not only applies to the book itself, but also Sylvie's quest to save it. In the process, an invisible fish and a blind owl come to her aid; there's even a palace coup. The novel, as a journey through ephemeral spaces between thought, dreams and words, is as much a romantic paean to reading and writing as it is a good story. Older readers will most appreciate its layered meanings, but the book can be enjoyed at many levels. Ages 10-up. (May)