Augie Boretski knows how to get by. If you’re a scrawny loser in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the bullies, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be pretty good at that, but suddenly his life is changing.
When Augie escapes to Philadelphia dreaming of castles and promise, he becomes a thief and steals a magical book of fairy tales. For sixth grade, he is assigned the meanest, toughest teacher in school. His mom signs him up with a Big Brother he doesn’t want. And he discovers that even in his world, there might be such a thing as a fairy godmother.
Augie is eleven-and-a-half. This is his time for adventure. He hadn’t figured it would begin in a bookstore.
“Bauer balances tone and content beautifully in this superb debut. Eleven-year-old Augie Boretski doesn’t expect the Big Brother program to do him any good, but that’s before he meets Walter. The man could definitely be a good friend to a lonely boy, but there’s danger. Growing up in Camden, Penn., “the armpit of the world,” Augie’s an easy target for bullies and if anyone found out that Walter is gay, it could be unspeakably dangerous for him. Yet when his public school shuts down after a winter accident, it’s Augie who has the sense and courage to rally the neighborhood and bring it back to full health. The guidance of the strong adults around him gives the boy the courage to overcome his personal demons. Alternating Augie’s story with some fairy tales he finds in a book, Bauer shows that there’s no easy escape from gritty reality or any magic solution to bullying. Complex characters and an infinitely readable text make this one of the strongest titles of the year.”
– Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Bauer’s a first time author, but you’d never know it from reading this book. This story is the perfect balance of magic and realism. The characters stick with you, the message isn’t messagey (a good thing, in my eyes), and the first page is suitably gripping. A book kids would actually enjoy reading.”
– A Fuse #8 Production listing No Castles Here among her pick of Newbery contenders
“A successful mingling of genres and a testament to the powerful truths in timeless tales.”
“[D]ue to some excellent character development, you anxiously wait to hear both the fairy tale stories and Augie’s story. . . , both were equally enthralling.”
“This debut novel combines magic, history, and school yard drama. . . What makes this fast-moving book so enjoyable is the depth Bauer gives her characters and the complex relationships that evolve among them. While Bauer ties up many of the loose ends in the last few chapters, there’s a clear sense that this is just the beginning for Augie.”
“Alternating through Augie’s life and the adventure novel he reads, NO CASTLES HERE is that one book which makes us feel glad that we picked it up. Augie isn’t just any normal character; he is one that we can all look up to and learn that the only way we are able to accomplish something is if we are willing to take that first step.”
“With all these elements, NO CASTLES HERE would be an ambitious project for any author. Remarkably, Bauer fulfills the task seemingly with ease, resulting in a story in which magic can seem real but in which the real magic occurs in the relationships between people, in the truly remarkable things that happen when a community bonds together. Augie is a real character who screws up, tells lies and turns his back on people who care for him, but nevertheless has a good heart, particularly once he learns to trust and care for the people who also value him.”
“Bauer takes readers on a wonderful trip through one young man’s life from fear to hope – and I enjoyed the trip tremendously.”
“What a gem this book is! It isn’t often that I come across a book that I truly love from the first page, but this was, indeed, one of them. First time author A.C.E. Bauer has written a novel that will capture the attention of both boys and girls (and obviously adults).”
“You’ll be cheering Augie on before this book is through!”–Park Forest Public Library Youth Services’s Middle-Pagers Book Reviews 3rd-6th Grade “The further I continued the more I realized that she had done something really amazing with this format — Bauer has written a book with fairy tales that middle grade boys will enjoy. . . At its heart, No Castles Here is a bit of a message book — in this case that community is important and finding common ground with people can literally save your life. But it’s a message that is placed so artfully into a narrative that readers will not flinch from what Bauer is saying.”
A “heartwarming novel.”
“This is a first novel for author Bauer, and it is an exceptional presentation. Middle-school boys, the toughest reading students, will enjoy this story and the characters Augie, Dwaine and Fox Tooth. The characterization of bullying is well done, as is the presentation of the Big Brother program and its address to stereotypes.”
“A.C.E. Bauer’s novel (Random, 2007) is full of real, flawed, yet worthy characters, John Mayer offers excellent narration, giving each character a unique voice. He also creates an entirely different storytelling experience when “excerpts” from the book of fairytales are being read by Augie. This heartwarming, wonderfully written story is an excellent addition to school and public library audiobook collections.”
“I’ve been on an interesting roll of reading first novels lately. Amazingly, the best book has been No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer, a YA book. The author gets inside the head of her hero, and wonderfully shows how a book can get inside you and help you grow. Much recommend for kids and adults.”
– mlgm, “Free at Last,” August 29, 2008
No Castles Here was chosen by the American Library Association’s GLBTRT and SRRT for their 2009 Rainbow List which “presents current well-written and/or well-illustrated books, with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age.”
Finalist for the 2001 Tassy Walden Awards: New Voices in Children’s Literature.