The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN: 9780802735935.
(Ages: 11+) Contains some graphic and violent content with some supernatural themes. A story about a young boy named Ephraim Appledore-Smith who is related to the scientist Orlando Smith. Orlando Smith had been searching for the Fountain of Youth his whole life. Ephraim Appledore moved to Appledore Mansion in Crystal Springs with his family after his father had a stroke. At first Ephraim didn't want to move to the Appledore Mansion because he was happy living where he was. He allowed his siblings and mother's enthusiasm to convince him that it would be a great move. Previously, there were three main families that lived in Crystal Springs. The Appledores, The Darlings and the Wylies. The Appledores were explorers and scientists who owned Ephraim's ancestral home, the Appledore Mansion and it is believed that the Fountain of Youth is hidden somewhere in its grounds.
The Appledores and the Wiley families are long-time rivals in the search of the fountain of youth. The Wileys believe that they have been searching for this fountain longer than the Appledores's and it is this belief that creates bitterness between these two families.
Ephraim becomes friends with his neighbour's daughter Mallory, who at first dislikes him. This changes when Ephraim's class does a project on an explorer. Ephraim and Mallory chose two different explorers who each claimed they had found the North Pole first. After many discussions, both Mallory and Ephraim agreed to do a joint project on how each explorer believed they were the first to discover the North Pole. In the midst of this, Will Wylie has taken a disliking to Ephraim because of the ongoing feud between the Appledores and Wylies.
Eventually, Ephraim befriends Will and they work together with Mallory to uncover an old science lab with notes that indicate that the Fountain of Youth is held within the grounds on Appledore Mansion. This discovery leads the trio on an epic adventure in their quest to find the fountain of youth, which is believed to cure any form of illness and slow down the aging process if it is continually consumed. Ephraim is determined to find the Fountain of Youth to cure the effects of his father's stroke. Eventually they find some half-filled bottles of water hidden in a secret hiding place in the stairs of a secret lab. Ephraim is desperate to find out if this is the water from the Fountain of Youth. However, Ephraim is faced with the decision to sample the water in the bottles and perhaps remain a twelve year old boy forever or to abandon their discovery in hope his father's condition will improve on his own.
This adventure forms a strong and unlikely friendship between these three children of feuding families. The story ends with Will recovering in hospital from a piece of wood stuck in Will's thigh caused by an unsuspected trap in the lab, with Mallory preparing for a trip to Alaska with her mother and Ephraim waving to his father who miraculously recovered from his stroke leaving the question - was it this water that cured Ephraim's father or did he heal on his own?