Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Silver Crown and Other Tropes

It's funny, isn't it, when you find a book you remember only in pieces--key pieces, that set the book apart, the most charming bits--but find that the sum of its parts is unrecognizable? One of my projects here at Owl and the Glass Cat has been restoring the old tropes into a recognizable library. Last week at a book swap (a miraculous invention--the Chicago Reader draws an interesting crowd with erratic tastes!), I came across a very green old paperback, The Silver Crown. It was a chapterbook with large type, the title rang a very distant bell in my transparent belfry, and I picked it up. Lo and behold--it began the way I remembered. A girl wakes up on the morning of her birthday to find a real silver crown, collapsible, on her pillow. This makes sense to the girl, Ellen, because she knows she is a queen. Not a princess, friends--a queen! In books most girls are born royalty, or become royalty of a sort, which is one of the reasons I believe many of us become book worms--in that world we have a chance of taking our rightful places in society--at the benevolent top! What follows in Crown fits into the Madeline L'Engle camp: a Sci-fi escape from an evil, rigged world, then a rescue, and a fight against world domination. That stuff ain't so fascinating, but the crown is. I think it should be mine. Why do so many villains want to rule the world? How do they think they can control it? This goes back to the central issue in The Mysterious Benedict Society--why, oh why, does anyone want this heap of junk and all the bad hats in it? Couldn't everyone take a lesson from Elizabeth I--there's royalty with a capital 'R', and not a greedy hair on her head! Don't take kingdoms whose borders you can't defend and protect, don't spread yourself too thin. Do write an original plot once and awhile.