Every once in a while I read a book that, judging by the cover alone, I think will be wonderful. Many times, in a middle grade reader, it is magical. By magical I don’t mean wizards, spells or tricks (though there are plenty of those here too); I mean the kind of magic that makes your jaw drop, gives you goose bumps, or makes you want to cheer out loud. It happens with Kate DiCamillo in my house often, and I think, because this cover reminded me of The Magician’s Elephant, I had the same kind of expectations we reserve for her.
After I read the first chapter, I had some serious misgivings. I was reading an ARC copy from NetGalley on my kindle, so I was not reading it with my two middle grade fans. And I missed them. Because, even from the very first chapter, this is a book I wanted to share with them. Of course, I understand that this book will not appeal to everyone, but most everyone I know will love this book. As an adult, I would describe it as The Night Circus for the middle grade. This is not a literal assessment, but in each there is an astonishing, world-within-the world, that awes and inspires, but also frightens. This book pits myth versus science, and the struggle we sometimes have to believe.
I kept reading it without my kids despite my misgivings. Because, honestly, they were engrossed in other books; and I didn’t want to wait for them. But after every chapter I told them, you have to read this book! By the time I finally finished they were sick of hearing it, and wondering aloud if I had any idea how often I repeated myself. I did. And I didn’t care. This is an awesome book. As you may know, I do not like to summarize plots – you can read that anywhere. But I am a huge cheerleader for books, and this is one I will cheer about for a long time to come. Like the recent Disney book I read, this book also features a recently dead mother. And, while I am not a fan of that, I am a fan of the mom in this story, who still features vividly in her daughter’s thoughts. It is magical, it is terribly sad, and it is wonderful. And yes, I will be reading this to my daughters – maybe even before you’ve had a chance to buy one for yourself.