The Very Last Castle

illus. by Mark Pett. 40p. Abrams. Oct. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419725746. POP
PreS-Gr 2–There is only one castle left in the world and it stands in the middle of a small town with a lone guard in its watchtower. Nobody comes out of this imposing structure and nobody goes in. Enter Ibb, an adventurous young girl with a healthy dose of curiosity. When she asks what lives behind the walls, she gets a variety of frightening theories. Her teacher believes monsters reside there, a friend opines it must be giants, while her grandfather insists on snakes. Ibb entertains these fantastical thoughts (and the illustrations do them justice) but she maintains a sense of optimism that it "could be something else." With mounting tension, Ibb knocks on the castle door and then runs away in terror. Shortly thereafter, the girl receives an invitation to visit the castle. Readers soon learn that while monsters and giants do live there, things are not quite as they were envisioned by the townsfolk. Instead, there is a delightful garden with topiaries shaped like dragons and a garden bursting with good things to eat. In the end, Ibb convinces the guard to venture out and share the fruits of his labor. Appealing illustrations done in pen-and-ink and watercolor round out this stellar read-aloud and add to its subtle humor.
VERDICT This debut picture book deserves a place in most collections. Strongly recommended for purchase.

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