Tag Archives: orphans

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy. August 29, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 544 p. ISBN: 9781626726543.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.3.

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines Mary s through intimate diary entries and Ella s in bold, striking art Pam Smy s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, and a suspense-filled story

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Murder, Bullying, Arson

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Dual stories set decades apart unfold together in this hybrid novel told in diary entries and eerie grayscale illustrations. More than 30 years ago, Mary Baines kept a diary about her life at Thornhill, an orphanage, and the cruel torment she experienced at the hands of another girl there. Meanwhile, in the present, Smy’s cinematic artwork shows lonesome Ella curious about the dilapidated former orphanage outside her window and the newspaper clippings she finds about a girl who went missing there, named Mary Baines. As Mary becomes more and more tormented for her love of books and the strange puppets she makes in her room, Ella sneaks onto Thornhill’s grounds and finds remnants of Mary’s dolls, which she takes home and lovingly repairs before returning them. The interplay between Mary’s diary entries and the images of Ella’s investigation builds depth in both girls’ narratives, though Ella’s can be a bit harder to decipher. Still, the enigmatic narrative, believable horrors, and haunting conclusion will be riveting for fans of ghost stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Decades after the tragedy at and closure of gothic Thornhill Institute, a new girl in town is drawn into its story.The past storyline is told through white, orphaned Mary’s diary entries (dated in the early 1980s); white preteen Ella’s modern, voiceless story unfolds, Wonderstruck-like, in intercut, illustrated, wordless sequences (frames of which occasionally have text, such as newspaper clippings). Selectively mute Mary is a puppet-making, literature-loving outcast at Thornhill, her situation complicated by the return of her chief tormenter and the ringleader of the other girls, back from a failed foster placement. These are Thornhill’s last days, the girls being sent to new placements so the property can be developed. Stoic Mary thinks she just wants to be left alone, until a taste of irresistible friendship turns to cruelty. In the present, lonely Ella is intrigued by Thornhill, especially the girl she sometimes sees beyond the locked walls. She sneaks onto the grounds, finds puppets, and repairs them before returning them, striking up an odd, at-a-distance friendship with the mysterious girl—who, she realizes, is likely the dead girl from the orphanage’s past. The puppets and doll figures take a familiar creepy motif and make it a source of joy and comfort. The striking monochromatic art is atmospheric and emotional in an understated way that gives it more power rather than less. It’s capped by an ambiguous climax and chilling denouement. Beautiful, moody, sad, and spooky—all at once. (Horror/graphic hybrid. 10-adult)

About the Author

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), among others. She lives in Cambridge.

Her website is pamsmy.blogspot.com

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Thornhill on Amazon

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Thornhill Publisher Page

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Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. May 2, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9781101994856.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 770.

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Kidnapping

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 4-7. Crow was a mere baby when she drifted to the shore of one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She has since grown up with the painter Osh as her stand-in father; their only other friend is Maggie, who teaches Crow. Nearby Penikese Island was home to a leper colony at the time of Crow’s birth, and most of the island folk assume her birth parents were lepers and shun her. Now a 12-year-old and uncertain of her parentage, Crow becomes increasingly curious following a fire on the now supposedly vacant Penikese. Where did she really come from? What happened to her parents, and is there a chance she has any surviving blood relatives? Crow’s quest for answers as she grapples with her uncertain identity shapes the 2017 Newbery Honor Book author’s sophomore novel. While this quiet, affecting story lacks the palpable sense of dread and superb pacing that made Wolf Hollow (2016) so impossible to put down, there’s still plenty to admire in this more classic-feeling historical novel, which calls to mind Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis (1977). Wolk has a keen sense for the seaside landscape, skillfully mining the terror the ocean can unleash as a furious nor’easter heightens tension in the novel’s climax. Historical fiction fans awaiting her follow-up will be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 15, 2017)
This book will make people want to run away to the Elizabeth Islands.It’s the 1920s. Crow and her adoptive father, Osh, live in a tiny house on a tiny island off Cape Cod, but her descriptions make it seem strange and mysterious. The cottage is “built from bits of lost ships,” and it’s full of found treasures: “a pair of sun-white whale ribs arched over our doorway, a tarnished ship’s bell hanging from their pinnacle.” Every chapter in the book has a new mystery to be solved: why was Crow sent away in an old boat when she was a baby? Why is a fire burning on an abandoned island? Did Capt. Kidd really hide treasure nearby? But some readers will love Wolk’s use of language even more than the puzzles. Crow says her skin is “the same color Osh [makes] by mixing purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.” (The race of the characters isn’t always identified, but Osh says, “I came a long, long way to be here,” and his native language and accent make him sound “different from everyone else.”) The pacing of the book isn’t always as suspenseful as it should be. There are a few lulls, which the author tries to fill with heavy foreshadowing. But the mysteries—and the words that describe them—are compelling enough to send readers to the islands for years to come. A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016). (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

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Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

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Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

Orphan Train Girl by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Trial Girl: Young Reader’s Edition by Christina Baker Kline. May 2, 2017. HarperCollins, 228 p. ISBN: 9780062445940.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.6.

This young readers’ edition of Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train follows a young foster girl who forms an unlikely bond with a ninety-one-year-old woman. Adapted and condensed for a young audience, Orphan Train Girl includes an author’s note and archival photos from the orphan train era.

Molly Ayer has been in foster care since she was eight years old. Most of the time, Molly knows it’s her attitude that’s the problem, but after being shipped from one family to another, she’s had her fair share of adults treating her like an inconvenience. So when Molly’s forced to help an elderly woman clean out her attic for community service, Molly is wary. Just another adult to treat her like a troublemaker.

But from the very moment they meet, Molly realizes that Vivian, a well-off ninety-one-year-old, isn’t like any of the adults she’s encountered before. Vivian asks Molly questions about her life and actually listens when Molly responds. Molly soon sees they have more in common than she thought. Vivian was once an orphan, too—an Irish immigrant to New York City who was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children—and she can understand, better than anyone else, the emotional binds that have been making Molly’s life so hard. Together, they not only clear boxes of past mementos from Vivian’s attic, but forge a path of friendship, forgiveness, and new beginnings for their future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism and racist language, Child neglect and abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. In this middle-grade adaptation of Kline’s best-selling adult novel, half Penobscot Molly, a modern foster child in rural Maine, finds a kindred spirit in the wealthy nonagenarian Vivian. Caught stealing The Secret Garden from the public library, Molly is forced to help Vivian clean out her attic. Though she’s wary of the elderly lady, she learns the two have something in common. Vivian herself is an orphan, having come to the U.S. from Ireland during the potato famine. When a fire destroys Vivian’s NYC tenement, killing the rest of her family, she’s sent off to Minnesota on an “orphan train.” Third-person passages alternating between Molly and 10-year-old Vivian, born Niamh and renamed by each of the families that takes her in, further flesh out common threads to their experiences. Though the book doesn’t quite pack the powerful emotional punch readers may expect, the muted emotions are situated in the context of the many hardships faced during the Great Depression. Back matter provides further historical context, useful for classroom instruction and enhancing the reading experience. Quietly moving.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
In a young readers’ version of Kline’s Orphan Train (2013), sixth-grader Molly, a foster child on the coast of Maine, helps an elderly woman, Vivian, sort through boxes of keepsakes in her attic.Molly, quietly introspective, is performing community service, assigned (surprisingly) for trying to steal a battered paperback from the public library. In Vivian, she discovers a kindred spirit. The elderly white woman is an orphan too and traveled west in 1929 on an orphan train. In the attic, Molly unwraps objects from Vivian’s childhood, each providing the vehicle for a transition to Vivian’s arduous experiences, first in New York, then on the orphan train, and finally in Minnesota, where she’s shunted from one desperate foster home to another. By comparison, Molly’s experiences under the care of her emotionally abusive foster mother, Dina, seem almost mild. The tale is painted with a broad brush, lacking the gentle nuance of the adult version. Molly, half Penobscot Indian and half white, prefers goth dress and is a vegetarian, but it’s never quite clear why angry, white, unnuanced Dina so dislikes her. Vivian’s more richly evoked story of immigration, poverty, and occasional kindness is more compelling but also simplistic, partly because her character is only about 10 or 11, even at the end of her story. Although interesting, this effort may leave readers wishing to explore unplumbed depths. (Fiction. 10-12)

About the Author

Christina Baker Kline is the author of New York Times instant bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written six other novels — Orphan Train, Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines— and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her 2013 novel Orphan Train spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including five weeks at # 1, and was published in 40 countries. More than 100 communities and colleges have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Her adaptation of Orphan Train for young readers is Orphan Train Girl (2017). She lives near New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Her website is www.christinabakerkline.com.

Teacher Resources

Orphan Train Discussion Questions

Orphan Trail Reading Guide

Around the Web

Orphan Train Girl on Amazon

Orphan Train Girl on Goodreads

Orphan Train Girl on JLG

Orphan Train Girl Publisher Page

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 192 p. ISBN: 9780062455734.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 720.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. While some journey hopefully toward a destination, Rydr’s expectations are decidedly low. Following her grandmother’s death, she’s traveling by rail to meet her next guardian, a great-uncle she has never met. In the meantime, the train becomes her home. She befriends a couple of passengers as well as her Amtrak chaperone and the snack-counter attendant, while the train travels from California to Chicago. Along the way, she celebrates her thirteenth birthday, deals with a personal crisis, and forms a strong bond with a boy. Each of these occurrences has an element of the unexpected as well as a feeling of inevitability. And in the end, this tough, smart, vulnerable kid leaves readers with the conviction that wherever she’s headed, it’s going to turn out OK. Written in a style that is simple and direct but not without nuance, the novel introduces Rydr as an initially enigmatic narrator whose story becomes more intricate and more involving as the many complications of her journey elicit memories from her past. While there’s tragedy in Rydr’s background, her way forward is lit by insight and hope. In his first novel, Mosier offers a cast of well-drawn characters, an unusual setting, and a rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Rydr, as she calls herself, is trying to put a brave face on a journey that feels much like doom.The 13-year-old, hungry and broke, is the daughter of an addicted mom “who used to have public embarrassments”—but now she’s dead. Her reluctant grandmother (also now dead), whose best quality was her excellent pancakes, was her next not-quite-a-caregiver. Now the girl, battered by life but always resiliently and often cleverly struggling forward, is on a long train trip from Palm Springs to Chicago, where she’ll be placed with an elderly great-uncle she doesn’t know but whose “monthly check will get bigger” when she arrives. During the journey she’s under the care of, then befriended and perhaps even saved by, Dorothea, an Amtrak escort, Neal, a gay snack bar worker, Carlos, a traveling poet, and an antipathetic Boy Scout called Tenderchunks who touches her heart. Along the way Rydr will savor her first kiss, run away from the train and her memories—but return—leave the burden of her mother’s ashes in an Iowa wood, and nearly destroy a restroom while trying to cope with her excruciating recollections. Her pluck and her perceptive narrative voice combine to make her brief yet deeply affecting connections with caring strangers plausible although occurring over the course of just a few days. Race and culture are implied in naming convention and speech patterns, with characters defaulting to white. A harrowing, moving, immersive, and ultimately uplifting debut novel. (Fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011, but has written in some fashion his entire life. He lives a short walk from the place of his birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, but it has been a very circuitous route that brought him there. He is married and is father to two lovely daughters who both read fanatically. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, talking nonstop, and riding trains. In fact, he has ridden most of the route described in his debut novel, Train I Ride, which has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

His website is novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.

Around the Web

Train I Ride on Amazon

Train I Ride on Goodreads

Train I Ride on JLG

Train I Ride Publisher Page

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. April 4, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 512 p. ISBN: 9780316394031.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything–including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 7-11. A trial run for a major offensive against Earth turns into a rescue operation for Genesis soldier Noemi Vidal, as she tries to save a friend from a surprise attack by Earth mechs (mechanized warriors) and ends up boarding a disabled Earth warship from an earlier battle. The ship isn’t empty; for the last 30 years, a one-of-a-kind mech, Abel, has waited for someone to release him from his tin prison. Noemi needs for Abel to complete a deadly mission that will give her planet more time to prepare for the coming war, but his sacrifice becomes less desirable as they get to know each other. This first-rate STEM-packed adventure explores what it means to be human and whether people are truly their brothers’ keepers. The point of view alternates between the two main characters, but Gray too often chooses to tell rather than let the narrative unfold through dialogue and action. There are subtleties to be found, though, in the deft handling of the developing relationship between Noemi and Abel.) | Twitter

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
A teen soldier teams up with an enemy android to end an interplanetary war. During a practice for her Masada Run, Genesis soldier Noemi (a human of Latin American and Polynesian ancestry) discovers an Earth ship abandoned during the last war. The reference is purposeful: it’s a suicide mission to damage the Gate between Earth and Genesis in order to stave off Earth’s offensive. Abel (a mech with artificial intelligence and self-awareness, modeled after his white creator) has waited alone on that ship for 30 years. Abel’s far more advanced than his task-oriented peers, with a (delightfully passive-aggressive) personality of his own, and he wants to return to his “father” but is programmed to recognize Noemi as his new superior and obey her. Using Abel, Noemi realizes she can destroy the gate and save her fellow soldiers’ lives, so she tears across the universe on the desperate, long-shot mission. Abel discovers the changes the past 30 years have wrought: Earth’s environmental degradation makes new homes like pristine Genesis necessary, but Earth leadership can’t be trusted not to destroy them too. Meanwhile, Noemi also learns the fuller picture and connects with people from different walks—including Abel, who she begins to suspect is more than a machine. Nuanced philosophical discussions of religion, terrorism, and morality advise and direct the high-stakes action, informing the beautiful, realistic ending. Intelligent and thoughtful, a highly relevant far-off speculative adventure. (Science-fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Her website is www.claudiagray.com.

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City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. January 24, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 432 p. ISBN: 9780399547584.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Gangs

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. “If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.” So begins Congo refugee and Kenyan street gang member Tina’s gripping narrative, a wonderfully twisted puzzle of a murder mystery. Six years ago, Tina’s mother, maid to wealthy Mr. Greyhill, was murdered in his study. Eleven-year-old Tina got her half sister Kiki (Mr. Greyhill’s daughter) a scholarship at a convent school and then disappeared into the streets of Sangui City, where she joined the Goonda gang. Here Tina refined her skills as a thief while carefully plotting revenge on Greyhill, whom she has good reason to believe murdered her mother. Now 17, Tina is ready to put the plan into action by blackmailing and then killing her mother’s assassin. Anderson, who has worked with refugee relief and development in Africa, addresses issues of race, class, and gender as intrinsic plot elements. Tina’s gay friend BoyBoy is an especially sympathetic and compelling character who refuses to join the Goondas, yet lends his computer skills to their many heists. Greyhill’s son Michael, Tina’s childhood playmate, is now both her captor and maybe her love interest, highlighting the tremendous gap between wealth and poverty and the resulting power dynamics. The nicely twisted climax is wholly believable, and readers will be sorry to leave Tina, whose fierce loyalty to family drives her courageous actions.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Anderson’s debut mystery novel features a Congolese teenager bent on revenge.In fictional Sangui City, Kenya, lives 16-year-old Tina, a black Congolese refugee. Tina has two purposes in life: take care of her mixed-race half sister, Kiki, and avenge their mother’s death. Five years ago, Mama was murdered, and Tina believes the culprit can only be the rich and corrupt Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s white former employer and lover. To survive, Tina has embedded herself as the wiliest of thieves within the ranks of the Goondas, a powerful gang in the city. After a Goonda heist on Mr. Greyhill goes wrong, Tina finds herself in cahoots with his mixed-race son, Michael, to find the true murderer. Michael wants to prove it wasn’t his father, and Tina goes along with it so that she can resume her plan for vengeance. Along with her black tech genius partner in crime, Boyboy, they find themselves in the depths of Congo, looking for answers that could cost them their lives. The narrative is guided by Tina’s rules for survival, which reveal a strong yet vulnerable character. While much of the novel is fictionalized, it exposes both the very real corruption and greed of the mining industry in Congo and the women who pay the price. The novel is peppered with Swahili words and phrases, and Anderson makes an effort to paint a picture of the country. A story full of twists and turns, proving nothing is ever as black and white as it may seem. (glossary) (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

Her website is www.nataliecanderson.com.

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City of Saints and Thieves on Amazon

City of Saints and Thieves on Goodreads

City of Saints and Thieves on JLG

City of Saints and Thieves Publisher Page