'The Under People. They live in a huge Cave. They are thought to be boring upwards. Giant worms and flying ants. Underground magic.' Mickle, the palace cat, knows the kingdom is in danger. He can feel it in his whiskers and he has found a mysterious note in the royal library...(Yes, of course he can read, and speak - if he chooses to!) Mickle can ...
'The Under People. They live in a huge Cave. They are thought to be boring upwards. Giant worms and flying ants. Underground magic.' Mickle, the palace cat, knows the kingdom is in danger. He can feel it in his whiskers and he has found a mysterious note in the royal library...(Yes, of course he can read, and speak - if he chooses to!) Mickle can't trust the King and Queen with his mission, so he and Prince Michael, with the help of their animal friends (and quite a bit of magic!), set out on a perilous quest to find the sinister Under People, discover their secret power and save the Kingdom of Astalon. In her first novel, written when she was only a teenager, Joan Aiken showcases the imagination, wit and storytelling zest that would lead to classics like Arabel's Raven and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
Ambrus, Victor. Very Good- in Very Good+ jacket. Sml 8vo. Illtd by Victor Ambrus. Ex-lib, with the usual markings and back hinge reinforced with paper tape; overall VG-in VG+ dust jacket in clear DJ cvr with the flaps glued to the inside pnls. The author's first novel, written when she was seventeen years old, and now reissued in a newly illustrated edition.
Victor Ambrus. About Fine. Fine Dj. 8vo. 2nd Printing thus. Prince Michael and his wise horse Minerva, set out to discover the magical under people. Exciting book by AWARD-WINNING AIKEN with a colorful dust jacket and b&w drawings by CALDECOTT-WINNING AMBRUS. OUT OF PRINT.
Many years ago when I was reading by the alphabet system (as did Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), trying to read all the fiction in my library by authors whose last name began with "A", I discovered Joan Aiken. I read several of her novels for adults and especially liked Midnight Is a Place as well as Voices In an Empty House.
The Kingdom and the Cave is her first novel, written when she was just 17 years old, which would have been 1941, but not published until 1960.
This first novel has the quality which had charmed me in the novels I read: she presents children as fully fleshed out individuals who are capable, full of courage and often more sensible than the surrounding adults.
Such a child is Michael, son of a King and Queen whose kingdom is threatened but who are clueless about how to protect it. Michael, his excellent cat Mickle and an old mare by the name of Minerva, save the day. One of the first things Michael has to learn is to speak U. A. L. (Universal Animal Language.)
So there is danger, adventure and magic. There are talking animals and evil Under People. Honestly, this is as good as the Narnia books (and free of the moral lessons) or even equal to Harry Potter in many ways. The book is recommended for middle grade readers.
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