The King in the Window

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The King in the Window Book Poster Image
Busy, wild fantasy is less than lucid.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Oliver does a lot of lying, which is portrayed as a useful skill, and skips school.


Fantasy fighting with swords and other weapons.


Oliver sees women in their underwear trying on clothes.


Various electronic toys and devices are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine. Oliver drinks champagne

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Oliver lies, skips school, and wanders around the streets of Paris at all hours, and his parents hardly seem to notice and are easily fooled.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byjcsoblonde April 9, 2008

a must read!!!

hokie doodle i absolutely LOVED this book!!! it leaves u breathless wanting to take everything in!! Gopnick creates a fantastic world in the mirrors and windows... Continue reading

What's the story?

Oliver, an American boy living in Paris, is accidentally taken for the new King in the Window, the leader of the Window Wraiths. In trying to fulfill this role, he discovers that the Wraiths, who live only in windows, are in a centuries-long struggle with the evil Master of the Mirrors. At Versailles, Oliver meets the Wraiths, among them Moliere, Racine, and others from the court of Louis XIV

Aided by his skateboarding American friend, Charlie, Mrs. Pearson, a snippy but wise (well, actually witty) old British woman, and Neige, a French girl who is a crystalomancer, Oliver enters the Way, the reverse world of mirrors. There he meets Nostradamus, and discovers that the Master steals souls and intends to control all of the multiverse revealed by quantum physics. He commands an army of soul-stealers, while Charlie has only his friends, his brains, the Wraiths, a group of terrified children, and a pack of skating teens.

Is it any good?

With this wild tale author Adam Gopnik has fallen prey to the curse of first-time children's authors: trying to cram everything into his first book. He tosses out ideas and images with reckless abandon, a surfeit of riches that quickly becomes too much. Page after page of less-than-lucid exposition goes by, along with a plethora of references only adults will get, including Yoko's effect on the Beatles, Robert Parker's wine commentary, Moliere's sense of irony, cinema clichés, and much more.

Gopnik seems to have heard the dictum that great children's literature appeals to adults too, but mixed it up with family movies, in which adult references are thrown in to keep the accompanying adults from boredom. The result is a book that will satisfy neither. It shimmers with imagination and beautiful prose, an intellectual feast, but the editor did not do him a service by withholding the red pen.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many literary personages and scientific theories presented. Who were Moliere and Racine? What is quantum physics and the multiverse? What are the differences between wise and witty, irony and metaphor? What are the differences between window, mirror, ice, and shadow?

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