A family finds a mysterious bottle. Within the bottle, a book. Within the book, a story. And within the story their own adventure.
Supposing a book were to appear sewn from all the different parts of your favorite stories. What could it be, but a tale of change? .Frogs become princes, orphans become kings, kings become beggars, milkmaids become knights. Duels become dances, tombs become houses, a deathly chase becomes a coronation.
We read to children bedtime stories that warn them and promise them: all thing change. Then we click off the light, expecting them to be unchanged when they wake in the morning.
In a bottle is a book, and in the book is a city built of pieces. In that city is a beggar who became a duke, a rat who becomes a cat, a song that became a promise. Ghosts, assassins, kings and cobblers shift and dance across this city, finding who they are by what story they tell of themselves. And in the very center of the dance, a man stands balanced on a wheel.
From the book:
I consider. "A good adventure story has a chase through a graveyard. There shall be a duel on a cliff by moonlight or firelight or lightning. There must be treasure. A magic ring. A haunted tomb and a ruined castle. Guards tricked, villains confounded. A lost heir, disguises, an assassin, ghosts, revenge, mutant tigers -"
I ignore that. "- mutant tigers, an ancient battle between good and evil, an execution, a daring escape. There must be a prophecy that actually surprises, a final battle with an unexpected ending. There must be dull villagers, street-smart orphans and an impossibly clever-but-wicked noble villain."
"What book is this?"
I brush that aside. "No one book. It is my list of pieces from the best. Adventures by night in a graveyard are in Tom Sawyer, in Great Expectations, The Horse and His Boy, in Harry Potter. Duels are in The Three Musketeers and The Princess Bride. The Westing Game and The Three Musketeers have mystery and disguises. The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn and The Hobbit and Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer have treasures and a mystery. The High King and The Mouse and His Child have a prophecy that actually surprises. Lord of The Rings has magic rings and ghosts and the lost heir and mutant tigers -"
" -and The Beggar Princess and The Prince and The Pauper have the clever street-wise kids. Harry Potter and The Black Cauldron and The Sword in the Stone and Momo and The Wizard of Oz all have the crazy wizard and the orphan with a destiny and The Last Unicorn and Lud in the Mist and The Thirteen Clocks and Three Musketeers and The Princess Bride have the sly noble villain."
I have to stop for breath. I must be getting old.