The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Lorina's school project is to write about a 'special place'. What place could be more special than the Castle of Inside Out, far away on a hill beyond the forest? Her guide on the journey there is a black rabbit, whose opinions are as unreasonable as they are vehemently expressed. Before she gets to the Castle she encounters the green people, who are starving and desperate. Surely whoever lives in the Castle, where they have so much, will want to help the green people, who have nothing?
And so Lorina's project turns into a quest and an adventure. The occupants of the Castle (the superviper, the farmadillo, the Piggident) are corrupt, sycophantic, deluded, self-serving and indifferent to the suffering of the people who have made them rich. Remind you of anything? Lorina navigates this strange world where nothing makes sense using courage, humour and logic to overturn the injustice she encounters everywhere inside the Castle. She must escape imprisonment, rescue the king, topple a dictator, and at every opportunity speak truth to power. Utterly clear-sighted, Lorina is a pint-sized, humorous and relatable warrior for social justice. Dear reader, you will cheer for her.
This is satire with a light touch, and Chris Riddell (that most intricate of illustrators) brings a surreal landscape and its extraordinary inhabitants to arresting life. A little bit Kafka, a little bit Animal Farm, and a lot Alice in Wonderland; The Castle of Inside Out has serious and timely things to say about the way the world is run. Everyone should read it.