My first oldy but goody is Ellen Kindt McKenzie's
Drujienna's Harp, which begins on a day in an unnamed city in what seems to be our world - indeed I've always assumed it was San Franciso. It is uncharacteristically hot, and the sky is a strange translucent pink. Tha and her brother Duncan visit a curio shop and pick up a bottle that the shop-owner warns them has a curse on it. They are instantly transported to another world.
Of relevance to one of sartorias's panel topics on world building, this is one of the most distinct and well developed worlds I remember encountering in children's fantasy. It has almost a quality of the surreal, with its pink sky, killing winds, geographic areas spreading out in concentric circles from a mysterious and deadly mound in the center. It is also unusual in children's fantasy for its bleak picture of political totalitarianism. The inhabitants are kept in a kind of controlled state of unknowing; asking too many questions is punishable by imprisonment or death. Yet there are mysterious Histories and a Prophecy, suppressed but not forgotten, that hint of "two" who will come and put the world right - or destroy it. This book deals with many extremely serious and important themes: ignorance, real or feigned, the importance not so much of physical courage but of moral convictions. Tha is a strong and believable heroine and there is a cast of well-drawn supporting characters, from the morose Eshone and even more grim Acheron to the delightful "Know-nothing" Zacapoos.
Like Victoria Walker's equally obscure but not entirely forgotten work, The Winter of Enchantment, this fascinating novel is now listed on ABE with absurdly high prices. I used to borrow it time and again from the library, and managed to snag a copy a few years ago at a less than astronomical price, and I treasure it. Just writing about it now makes me think I should reread it again - I suspect it will not have lost its magic.
So now it's your turn! How many of you have read any of the books I mention, especially this one? What are your own forgotten treasures? And don't forget to write a review of your favourite and link it here.