And now for something completely different
To contrast with my recent posts, now I’m going to go back to historical fiction and books for younger readers.
Brief plot summary
Montmorency is a thief lurking in the streets of 19th century London. Captured by the police and gravely injured in the process, he is taken in by an eccentric young doctor who is going to use his success in treating Montmorency to secure his position in the London Scientific Society. Montmorency makes a discovery at one of these seminars that will inspire him in the greatest heist of his career.
So how is it?
It’s fun, easy-reading historical fiction. It lacks some of the cross-generational appeal of mcuh YA stuff, but that serves to make it more accessible to struggling or younger readers. It’s a book I would have loved to find in elementary school. School Library Journal says it’s for grades 6-10, but it’s short and simply written enough to really be suitable for anyone who can comfortably handle the Magic Treehouse books and is looking for something with a little more edge. I also think 10th graders who pick this up may very well be disappointed at its simplicity. It’s significantly more juvenile than Twilight, Bloody Jack, or the Hunger Games so readers already familiar with any of those works might find this a bit too easy for them.
Montmorency is interesting to me becuase the book has parallels with all sorts of other stuff that would be age-inappropriate here. The most obvious is how heavily influenced the storyline is by Le comte de Monte Cristo, but the more I think about this book the more I see. The opening has some similarities with Best served cold, etc. etc. The whole thing feels really well put together to me, with a compelling story featuring a loveable rogue.
One thing that’s somewhat interesting: the characters are all more or less adults. This will probably make it harder for younger readers to find someone to identify with, but the story arc and character development is fairly consistent with books featuring a younger cast – in this way it’s kind of like Scooby Doo or one of the Star Wars tie-ins for younger readers. Now that I think about it, My little pony : friendship is magic does the same thing, featuring characters who are ostensibly self-supporting young adults but still keeping things relateable for a younger audience.
I have recommended this book a number of times. It’s a great book to recommend when there’s a parent present complaining about how their child only seems to read fantasy, as pretty similar “feel” to a lot of the YA fantasy out there while retaining a strong historical basuis. Or at least, an ostensible historical basis.
I’ve recommended it to fans of the Percy Jackson books but I haven’t actually read any of those books so I can’t comment on the comparison.
So here are my cross recommendations.
The thief / Megan Whalen Turner
The whipping boy / Sid Fleischman (I seem to recall vaguely that there’s some discussion about this book being problematic in some way? I don’t really remember and don’t feel like looking it up right now)
Gregor the Overlander / Suzanne Collins