By Mira Bartok
Published by Candlewick
September 26, 2017
Digital Copy Provided by NetGalley
Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name -- a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck -- it is the only home he has ever known.
But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name -- Arthur, like the good king in the old stories -- and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny.
I would definitely call this book an epic fantasy! I loved the fantastical nature of the story and, though it took me a while to finish it, I enjoyed the journey that Mira Bartok took me on as I followed Thirteen (Arthur) in his search for answers about his family and about himself. One of the ways I know that I enjoyed this book because there was at least one character who I really detested, and I only truly dislike a character when I am fully invested in a book. I also enjoyed meeting, and learning about, the other friends that Thirteen meets and makes along his journey. This story also addresses the idea of equality in a way that I think my 4th grade students will really understand. I would definitely use this book to have bigger conversations about equality in the real world and how it might compare to this story.
Though it is long, I would recommend this story for grades 4 and up.