What do an inventor, a wooden lighthouse lit by candles and clinging to a treacherous reef, and a boy who hates the sea have in common?
It was 1703, and Digory was only eleven when he left his aunt's house to travel over a hundred miles to Portsmouth, where he could get reliable news about his father's ship. It was supposed to have gone down near Yarmouth, and if there had been any survivors, someone at the King's Arms, a tavern near the docks, would know about it. A scar-faced sailor gave Digory and his little brother Cubby the bad news. The ship had been hurled against the cliff by tides so strong, it had broken in two. Everyone on board, including the captain, has been lost.
But sometimes good and bad news come together, and the two orphans were befriended by Henry Winstanley, an inventor and gadgeteer, who was famous all over England for the wooden lighthouse he'd built on the Eddystone Reef, the same reef where their grandfather had died in a storm. But that wasn't all he was famous for-his house was a mansion full of clockwork gadgets, surrounded by a garden with talking swans and giggling mushrooms, and gigantic green animals carved out of bushes-tigers, monkeys, rabbits, foxes and more!
Digory and Cubby couldn't believe their eyes-it was like nothing they'd ever seen before! But the marvels had only begun. A loaf of bread walked across the table, followed by the teacups. And when Cubby sat down in a chair to watch the parade, it wrapped its arms around him, and sped off on a set of wooden tracks that led outside, looped around the garden and almost ended up in the duck pond. It was a house made for fun, for magic, and for illusions, and it had all been created by Henry Winstanley himself. And when Henry found out that Digory could draw, he instantly made Digory his apprentice, promising that one day Digory would do just as many magical things as he himself could.
He promised Digory a life like he'd never imagined, much less hoped for. But will the illusions last? Can the Magic House really offer the two orphans magical lives? Step through the front door, give your hat and coat to the robot butler made of tin, and find out!
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.