The Great Good Thing

Common Sense Media says

Great for kids who love books.





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a philosophical little story with some big ideas.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

"Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to live it very often."From that auspicious opening sentence springs the story of Princess Sylvie, a character in a book that has been gathering dust for years. While waiting for a Reader, the characters while away the time, but when a Reader finally opens the Book they all scramble to take their places and enact the story yet again.

Sylvie, bored and curious, breaks the rules and finds her way out of the Book and into the dreams of a Reader named Claire. Her parents are outraged, but when Claire's brother accidentally sets fire to the Book, it is Sylvie who leads the characters into Claire's mind. There they attempt to reconstruct the story, but freedom from the Book's strictures, as well as the vagaries of Claire's maturing mind, brings unwelcome changes. As Claire ages, their continued survival may depend on the mysterious "girl with the dark blue eyes," who flits through Claire's dreams and waking thoughts and seems to know all about the Book.

Is it any good?


It has often been said that one of the great things about books is that the characters and story are there, waiting for the reader to bring them to life. In this story, this is literally true: When the book is closed, blue back-up lights come on and the characters find ways to pass the time until the next time they reenact their story.

This offbeat, philosophical little book is not for every child. Though it certainly has some action and adventure, it also introduces some big ideas about the nature of reality, mortality, dreams, and artistic creation. But for a child who loves books, thinking, and wondering it is a unique treasure, and a new way to look at the world of imagination.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between readers, characters, and authors. Do you think everyone reads a story the same way? Do you believe books belong to you, in a sense? What is the author's role?

Book details

Author:Roderick Townley
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:March 22, 2004
Number of pages:216
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

This review of The Great Good Thing was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byizzyt April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

What a SWEET story!

My 6 1/2 year old son LOVES books. This story was right up his alley. It is such an original, creative story with great characters. It makes for great discussion about dreams and thoughts and even death (in a sweet peaceful way). We thoroughly enjoyed every page!
Teen, 15 years old Written byKass April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Sweet and whimsical

This was one of my favorite childhood books. It's a delightful blend of characters, wit, adventure, and questions, and thinking children will be universally intrigued by the premise.
Teen, 14 years old Written bylethie April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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