Scholastic Booktalk

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There is an enemy in the land of Elyon that threatens the peace and prosperity of the people who live in its four walled cities.

Alexa Daley is twelve years old, skinny and small for her age. She lives in Lathbury, one of the four walled cities in the land of Elyon. Her father is mayor of Lathbury, and rules their land along with the other mayors, and Worvold, their leader. But the night when Worvold dies, everything in Alexa's life changes.

Worvold was the genius who built the walled cities connected by walled roads. After he created the first walled city of Lunenberg, many people were attracted to the safety of the city, and soon its walls were too small to hold the crush of its population. But the people were afraid of the dangers outside the walls and refused to leave. Worvald then proposed to build a walled road southward into the wilderness, and at the end of the road, build another walled city. But who would build the road? Ainsworth, the large city north of Lunenberg, had an overcrowded prison, and Worvold proposed to employ 300 of its convicts for the work. A deal was struck, the roads and – eventually – three more cities were built by the convicts, people felt safe within them, and Worvold returned the prisoners to Ainsworth, and the kingdom was complete.

But now, years later, just before he dies, Worvold tells Alexa he's no longer sure he did the right thing, that instead of building walls to keep dangerous things outside, perhaps he's kept them inside instead. There are secrets inside and outside the walls, he tells Alexa, and he believes that they are about to meet.

Those were the last words he spoke, as he and Alexa sat talking in the shadow of the great wall. Alexa doesn't know what he meant, but she has spent almost her whole life looking for a way outside the walls. If anyone knew the way out, it would be Worvold. Worvold wore a locket around his neck. Alexa opens it and finds two keys, one gold and one silver. Following her intuition, she leaves the gold key and takes the silver one. She doesn't know what it might unlock, but she knows she has to take it and try to find the lock it will fit into.

And soon, she finds out that the key will lead her into places she never knew existed and adventures she'd never imagined. There are forces outside the walls of the cities that plot to overthrow and destroy them, and Alexa is the one whom Worvold chose to lead the fight against them. In this fight, being short, skinny and small for your age is an advantage.

This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart