Here's our latest read aloud. I'd meant to start it by November so I could read The Box of Delights in time for Christmas (because of the Christmas theme) but what with a late delivery from Amazon and us not finishing our other read aloud until mid-December (The Red Pyramid), it never happened.
But now we're almost finished this book and so far it's a definite hit. It's a period piece, though, so if you're looking for something for the younger crowd this might not be your best choice unless your listener has an ear for arcane diction because Masefield's writing style is fairly antiquated. I found myself editing speeches once or twice. Not that it's boring, more that the topics of conversation are likely to confuse to anyone unfamiliar with the diction of your average 1840's highwayman, plus some of the characters tend to go on rather, um, impenetrably. I had to stop here and there to explain terminology, something I never do.
But those are only small things in comparison to the thread of the story, which is bursting with imaginative details and clever characters and exciting twists and turns. It's a literary forebear to books by the likes of Diana Wynne Jones and JK Rowling with its talking cats and paintings come to life and mermaids and witches and flying potions. Plus, there is some crazy dialogue, mostly along the lines of "What a jolly fun day I've had!" — dialogue my kids adore. The characters are all so wonderfully unambiguous, too: Plucky Boy, Bad Governess, Cruel Witch, Strange Guardian, Rude Game Keepers, and so on. Refreshed my palate after the characters in The Red Pyramid, who were all so very, well, predictable.