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The Water Castle

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,028 Ratings  ·  327 Reviews
Ephraim Appledore-Smith is an ordinary boy, and up until his father’s stroke he lived an ordinary life. But all that changes when his family moves to the Water Castle—their ancestral home in the small town of Crystal Springs. Mallory Green’s family has always been the caretakers of the Water Castle—and the guardians of the legendary Fountain of Youth, hidden on the estate ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Walker Childrens (first published January 1st 2013)
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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg SloanNavigating Early by Clare VanderpoolDoll Bones by Holly BlackEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris GrabensteinFlora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Newbery 2014
7th out of 109 books — 443 voters
The School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe Runaway King by Jennifer A. NielsenRump by Liesl ShurtliffThe Ability by M.M. VaughanThe House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Middle Grade Novels of 2013
28th out of 360 books — 716 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 29, 2015 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Carmen by: New York Times Book Review
She did understand. She understood as she never had before.

Okay, this book is seriously mindblowing and amazing. SO AMAZING. One of the best children's book (middle-school, or whatever you call it before kids start reading YA) that I have ever read. OMG.

Price, Ephraim, and Brynn Appledore's father has suffered a severe stroke. He's nonresponsive. He can't talk, he can't go to the bathroom by himself,... In desperation, the children's mother takes the three kids up to Maine with their dad in orde
Mar 18, 2013 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Where does fantasy stop and science fiction begin? Is it possible to ever draw a distinct line in the sand between the two? A book with a name like The Water Castle (mistakenly read by my library's security guard as "White Castle") could fall on either side of the equation, though castles generally are the stuff of fantastical fare. In this particular case, however, what we have here is a smart little bit of middle grade chapter book science fiction, complete with arson, obsession, genetic mutat ...more
Marjorie Ingall
Mar 29, 2014 Marjorie Ingall rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-9-12
I'm cranky. This book needed MERCILESS editing. Such a great premise (Dad has had a stroke! Family moves back to the mysterious small town that spawned them, where ooh, coincidentally the water has putatively healing powers! And everyone there is a genius! And also radioactive! And the family has oodles of shared history with other families in the town and the kids of each of the three main families join forces to SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF THE WATER! And there's a backstory involving Henson, Peary an ...more
Emily Rosenbaum
Dec 29, 2013 Emily Rosenbaum rated it it was amazing
Finally--a well-written, thought-provoking book that gives kids in the "middle reader" age group something meaty to chew upon. The characters are fully developed, the plot is engaging, and there are actual themes and ideas, which is unusual in a book for this age group. This is a great book to read aloud because the adult will enjoy it, too. I wouldn't have a child younger than 9 or 10 read it, because while younger children will like The Water Castle, they won't be able to engage some of the mo ...more
Barb Middleton
May 20, 2013 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
Hey folks, meet Ephraim Appledore-Smith, your average kid. I repeat, average. He used to think he was pretty smart until moving to Crystal Springs, Maine. Here everyone is a genius and most live longer than the average Joe Schmo. Ephraim goes from first to worst at school and it is not easy on his ego. Then he starts to wonder what the heck is going on. The town residents, teachers, and students are not normal with their sky-high IQ's. Even his smart sister and athletic brother have gone off the ...more
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

The more I read and review children’s books the more I find it all to be a Complicated Affair. Do I approach them like the adult that I am or do I approach them bearing in mind their intended audience? And even if I come to believe that its intended audience would like the book do I still recommend it even though I found flaws in the book’s logic? To sum up: do I read for myself and write my review accordingly or do I bear in mind the book’s potential
Nov 27, 2013 Kifflie rated it liked it
Shelves: youth-sf-fantasy
I wanted to like this book better than I did.

The concept is pretty interesting. There's a town, Crystal Springs, hidden away in Maine where people seem unusually healthy, smart, and long-lived. Maybe it has something to do with the water?

Ephraim Appeldore-Smith's father has just suffered a stroke, and his mother has taken the whole family to their ancestral home in Crystal Springs to see if Dad's recovery can improve in the new environment. City boy Ephraim is in for a shock as the town kids ar
Apr 14, 2013 Nicole rated it it was amazing
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013
Mystery/Science Fiction
344 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

You know those special books you come across that are so good you almost want to stop reading them, to prolong your time together? That is how I feel about the first book I am reviewing. I read this book before bed each night, and instead of zipping through it, I would read a chapter or two, put my bookmark in, and think.

Open the book, the first illustration yo
Mar 13, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
So, on the one hand, this book was wonderful. Gorgeously written, and with a very old-fashioned feel, even though the bulk of the book takes place in the modern day. (Some of it is a 100 year old journal.) But on the other hand, just as a warning, this was a terrible read-aloud. I read this aloud to my kids, and because of the amount of (I thought wonderful) description and the length of the book, it took us a really long time to read. There's not a lot of action, but there are a lot of clues sp ...more
Ephraim Appledore- Smith’s dad has just had a stroke, so the family moves from their home in Cambridge, MA to their ancestral home that the kids have never been to in tiny Crystal Springs, ME.

Mallory’s family has always been the caretakers of the Water Castle. Will’s family has always been Ephraim’s family’s enemy. There may or may not be something magical or science fictional about the water near Crystal Springs. (This is one of the many things that is delightfully left ambiguous, at the book'
Lia Marcoux
Jan 18, 2015 Lia Marcoux rated it it was ok
I picked this up without any background knowledge because I thought the cover was lovely and sure, I like mysterious old castles built by wealthy eccentrics at least as much as the next guy. But it was like having a casual acquaintance slowly and kindly explain your own joke to you.

Each character is introduced. Their motivations are carefully demonstrated, clarified and placed in a historical context. Later, the characters meet each other and explain them again. In case there's any confusion, th
Ms. Yingling
Feb 10, 2014 Ms. Yingling rated it it was ok
Ephraim and his family move to a small town in Maine to take over a long neglected family home. His father, an artist, has had a debilitating stroke and his mother, a doctor, thinks that the house (once the site of a sanitorium utilizing the water, which seems to have healing properties) will make him better, and there is also a doctor nearby who specializes in this sort of problem. Ephraim manages to get settled in and makes friends with Mallory, whose mother's family were caretakers of the hou ...more
Oct 23, 2013 Joan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: sci fi, fantasy fans and mystery fans
I found this a really nice read. However, I don't really feel that this book is "remarkable" as one reviewer put it. It is a book of a sort we haven't seen much lately: a bunch of kids who traditionally should be enemies reaching out to each other as much out of curiosity as of kindness and doing it of their own free will not because some grownup told them to do so. That part alone made me tempted to raise this to four stars. However, I felt the book never quite took off. Ephraim is in the depth ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
After Ephraim’s father has a stroke, the family moves to the Water Castle, an ancestral home in Crystal Springs, Maine. Ephraim is convinced that coming from the big city, he will be more popular and seem smarter than he ever had before. After all, his older brother has always been popular and his little sister is very smart. But things don’t work out the Ephraim expects. The house itself is unusual, filled with strange rooms and different levels; it glows blue at night and hums. Ephraim is defi ...more
Summary: (

Ephraim Appledore-Smith is an ordinary boy, and up until his father's stroke he lived an ordinary life. But all that changes when his family moves to the Water Castle-their ancestral home in the small town of Crystal Springs. Mallory Green's family has always been the caretakers of the Water Castle-and the guardians of its secrets. She has been raised to protect the legendary Fountain of Youth, hidden on the estate grounds. But ever since her mom left, she's stopped believin
Mar 13, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it
The story braids three contemporary narrators and the historic flashback into a intriguing mystery of magic and science, asking questions about self identity and family identity. At 330 pages, the book does not feel overly long and the plot wraps up enough for an emotionally satifing ending, but amibigiously enough to keep a lively readers discussion going. Is there truely magic in the Water Castle? That answer is left up to the reader to decide.

I feel like the publishers are hoping for a Newber
In many respects this book reminds me of Tuck Everlasting. It centers around the unlikely friendship that springs up among Ephraim Appledore-Smith, Mallory Green, and Will Wylie in small town Crystal Springs, Maine. Despite the enmity shared by their ancestors, they form connections and work together to solve the mystery of the local water, reputed to cure ailments and prolong life. Eleven-year-old Ephraim's artist father has suffered a stroke and seems to be getting no better even though the fa ...more
Kitty Jay
Dec 27, 2014 Kitty Jay rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya
Set in a small town in Maine, the book follows Ephraim Appledore-Smith and his family as they move into an inherited castle following his father's stroke. He quickly finds himself out of depth in the unique town, populated by extraordinary people who are just a tad smarter and stronger than everyone else. Driven by his need to find a cure for his father, he gets caught up in an ancient legend surrounding the castle and the secret of a magical elixir supposedly drawn from the fountain of youth lo ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Kermit rated it really liked it
Shelves: junior-fiction
4.4 stars

This is on alot of lists right now as a possible Newbery contender. It's a great companion to Tuck Everlasting. I felt there were some plot holes, though. And while the ending pretty much explained Mallory's parents----I don't think that it explained why all the kids in the town are so smart and rarely get sick.

The book that I read was from the public library and had a Fantasy label on the spine. But I think it also has some science fiction elements.

I'm not sure if middle readers will
Aug 16, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids
I really enjoyed this, but subtracted one star because I wished more had been explicitly concluded. This is a great combination of mystery, science inquiry, family and friend relationships, and history. Halfway through, I guessed something (view spoiler) that I think most kids would puzzle out as well, but we never get our suspicions confirmed (or is it that obvious? or not true after all?). I especially liked how the kids evolved and learned to think for t ...more
Sep 14, 2014 BJ rated it really liked it
I would love to read this book to my Grandchildren... so many great lessons throughout yet it holds your attention. As a child I had recurring dreams of a house just like the water castle which made it all the more interesting to me.
Jan 08, 2014 Cathy rated it liked it
The Water Castle is an interesting type of book and it's a little hard for me to wrap my brain around what it is exactly supposed to do. I guess I'm not really sure what it is trying to do. It has some good moments and a great and original idea. But for me the book didn't accomplish what it attempted. I think the author probably tied up some loose ends along the way in the story, but then again, I am not sure if she did. Our book club discussion was a lot of fun, but for me something was missing ...more
Sep 29, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
Add this to my list of 2015's surprising reads. A remarkably complex middle level story that weaves together history, science, family, friendship, race, class, and a little bit of magic.
May 14, 2013 Betsy rated it really liked it
Because I'm married to an electrical engineer/physics guy who tells me certain things aren't possible... I'm forced to give this 4.5 stars. And no, the things I'm referring to that aren't possible in this book are NOT the great sci-fi elements. They're more mundane. (sighs melodramatically at being rational).

Nonetheless, this is a GREAT read, a wonderful blend of fantasy and scifi, and an awesome ending that leaves you pondering....

For those who've read this, I need someone to enlighten me: was
Aug 15, 2013 Constance rated it really liked it
Shelves: y-p
This seems like the sort of book I might've read over and over in my youth. I really enjoyed it, but the ending felt a bit unfinished to me. Just one more chapter would've made me happy, but I suppose the author meant to leave us with questions. Still a great story with adventure, science, *maybe* some magic, and a dash of mystery. Takes place in two time periods (1908 and the present) with a strong cast of well-rounded and interesting characters. The writer is a middle school librarian, and in ...more
LCL Children'S
Jul 17, 2015 LCL Children'S rated it really liked it
After Ephraim Appledore-Smith's father has a stroke, his mother relocates the family to Crystal Springs, Maine -- not only can Ephraim's father get better medical care there, but Crystal Springs is also the ancestral home of the Appledore family, and there is plenty of room for them in the formerly vacant Water Castle. Ephraim has mixed emotions about the move, and about his father's illness. He would do almost anything to see his father return to health. When he learns that some of his ancestor ...more
John Clark
Jan 21, 2015 John Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ephriam Appledore-Smith is one of three siblings, happily living in Boston with his physician mom and artist dad. He doesn't spend much time thinking about how he fits in or whether he's above or below average. He's just a kid. That is until his dad suffers a stroke and isn't found for hours. Dad's illness changes everything. Mom might be a doctor, but she's powerless to fix what's wrong with her husband, who sits like he's made of flesh colored putty, unresponsive to anything his wife or childr ...more
Jul 31, 2014 Chris rated it did not like it
The Water Castle follows four main protagonists over two different time periods: Ephraim, Mallory, and Will all live in Crystal Springs, ME in the present; Nora, an ancestor of Mallory’s, lived in Crystal Springs in 1908. Both sets of stories touch on themes of acceptance, discovery, friendship, and prejudice. In the past, Nora was offered a job by wealthy eccentric, Dr. Orlando Appledore. As his assistant, Nora is tasked with helping Dr. Appledore research the town’s water supply. Dr. Appledore ...more
May 08, 2014 M. rated it liked it
Ephraim's dad has had a stroke and his mom has moved the family to Crystal Springs, ME, where she grew up and where people seem smarter and healthier than is the norm. Ephraim's older brother has always been a sports star and his younger sister is academically gifted, by Ephraim soon recognizes that his Boston school's curriculum hasn't prepared him for the 6th grade in Crystal Springs. Why are the kids so much more advanced than he is? Could it be the water.

Together with Will and Mallory, two m
Mar 24, 2014 melydia rated it really liked it
When his father has a stroke, Ephraim's family moves to Maine to live in his ancestral home, a place called the Water Castle because his family used to bottle the local spring water and sell it. The town of Crystal Springs is full of unusually talented people, which makes Ephraim feel even more out of place. Soon, however, he begins to suspect there is something strange going on in his family's home. With the help of some new friends, he investigates a legacy that goes back more than a century. ...more
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Mock Newbery 2017: July Read - The Water Castle 27 205 Sep 07, 2013 07:28AM  
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Megan Frazer Blakemore is an author for children and young adults. She lives with her husband and children in Maine. She has worked in both school and public libraries, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in library science at Simmons SLIS.
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