The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio
Lloyd Alexander (Juvenile Fantasy)
If you were to ask Evariste what he thought of his nephew, Carlo Chuchio, he would say that the lad was nothing more than a thankless, dimwitted daydreamer. A “chooch”. And perhaps he was right. Having an uncle who was an importer, Carlo spent his days loitering at the docks and imagining places waiting to be visited and explored—places far beyond his home in Magenta. Adventure, as fate would have it, was a lot closer than Carlo had imagined for when he happened upon a bookseller in the market, he was offered a book of fantastic tales. Stories of magic carpets and genies in lamps and caves filled with treasure. But this particular book didn’t just contain wondrous stories, it also hid a map with the most intriguing and irresistible two words that Carlo could ever imagine: “Royal Treasury”. Soon, Carlo would be embarking on a journey that involved an unlikely set of traveling companions…all heading to Cathai and the fabled “Road of Golden Dreams”.
Lloyd Alexander takes readers on a magical journey filled with suspense, danger, mishaps, missteps, humor, and romance. Although there’s no flying carpet or bottled genie, there is plenty to delight and entertain readers of any age. At the heart of this story is young Carlo Chuchio, a dreamer filled with integrity who would not let his desire to be held in high regard outweigh his need to do the right thing. He soon realizes the burden of having a conscience, but the blessing that comes with listening to it.
Along Carlo’s journey, he meets up with a delightful set of companions. Baksheesh, a camel-puller, proves to be an invaluable adviser and is always ready with a fast line or two in order to escape trouble…or work. There’s quiet and observant Salamon, who is childlike in his eagerness, curiosity, and joy when discovering something new. Then there’s Sira, who is not what she appears to be. She bears a tragic past and although her heart is filled with vengeance and heartache, perhaps there’s still a bit of room left for love. Together, the group encounters ruffians, warlords, a dream merchant, a painter, rivaling tribes, armies, a horse master, and perhaps the most repugnant of them all, a storyteller. While encountering danger and death at almost every turn, our ragtag troupe reminds us that it is often cunning and cleverness that have a sharper edge and can cut just as deep as any saber or tulwar.
Of all the characters in this book, it is Salamon who is perhaps my favorite. He is a kind and gentle man of few words, but when he does offer up some advice or wisdom, they are balm to the soul. When Carlo was unsure about what his future held, Salamon replied, “What remains to be seen is always the most interesting.” And when Carlo was telling Salamon about his quest for treasure, Salamon came up with a gem of his own: “As if a fortune could make up for the bother of gaining it. No, no, my lad: The journey is the treasure.”
The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio teaches us so many lessons: not to judge a book by its cover, the virtues found by putting your faith in the untrustworthy, or the comfort gained from seeking hope amongst the impossible. But above all, Lloyd Alexander gives us a wonderful and exciting story about a boy who discovers all the possibilities and treasure that the world has to offer all because one day, he seized upon the remarkable opportunity to open up a book. How much richer can you possibly get?
*Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com
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