By Hal Patnott and Alena Rivers
In anticipation of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this weekend, we decided to feature four books and sort them into the Hogwarts Houses based on the traits of their main characters. The original idea for this post came from a post on the yalsa-bk listserv titled “Sort YA into Hogwarts Houses?” written by Rachel Moir, the teen services librarian at Worcester Public Library. The titles we selected are all middle grade fiction from our 2016 collection. Stop by the Butler Center to check them out for yourself!
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan (Disney/Hyperion, 2016)
When thirteen-year-old Thorn’s father disappeared, he promised his mother and little siblings that he would bring him home by harvest, but ever since he left his village, Thorn’s circumstances went from unlucky to a living nightmare. Bound into the service of an executioner, the road ahead of Thorn leads straight to Gehenna, a kingdom of shadows where necromancers wear the crown.
Lilith never wanted to wear the Mantle of Sorrows and assume the position as the Lady Shadow, ruler of al Gehenna, but after the brutal murder of her parents and older brother, she has no choice. Without her father’s sorcery, her kingdom is falling apart. Magic flows through her veins too, but the law forbids her from learning.
Shadow Magic begins in the thick of danger, and the stakes only get higher for Thorn and Lilith as they become ensnared in dark magic and a murder mystery. To survive and save Gehenna they need the courage to disregard the rules and unleash their own hidden talents.
The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Penguin/Dial, 2016)
The Gallery begins in present day New York where 100-year-old Martha O’Doyle is being interviewed by a young reporter sent to do a short piece featuring Martha as she crosses over her centennial year. The young reporter has discovered that Martha is the only surviving witness to the death of a newspaper tycoon and his wife who were in their home when it was bombed. Curious about the details of the bombing, the young reporter probes Martha for more information. Though the reporter doesn’t get her story, Martha decides it’s time to write out the details as she remembers them from nearly 90-years ago. She reflects on her year as a maid for Mr. J. Archer Sewell and his wife, Rose Sewell. In her younger years, Rose had been known to be a rambunctious, socialite who was not adverse to scandal. But when young Martha arrives at the Sewell house she finds that Rose has become a recluse, never leaving their home and only caring for the countless, priceless paintings she and her father collected over the years. Rose refuses to interact with anyone other than a small handful of people but Martha is curious, strong-willed and has little regard for rules so she devises a way to communicate with Rose and in doing so, discovers there is more to Rose’s story.
Told in retrospect, Martha’s character is independent, determined and resourceful. Readers will feel the tension between the story’s characters and Martha’s challenge to balance restraining her thoughts and opinions while pushing to learn the truth.
The Inn Between by Marina Cohen (Macmillan/Roaring Brook, 2016)
Eleven-year old Quinn’s best friend Kara is moving with her family from Denver to Santa Monica. Quinn and Kara have been best friends since kindergarten and the thought of them being apart has both girls dreading the impending move. Quinn is invited to join Kara’s family on their trip to their new home so she and Kara can spend more time together and to help Quinn reconcile some of her own personal issues. The story opens as the girls and Kara’s family drive through a long stretch of desert. As the evening approaches the weary travellers decide that they all could use a break from the road so they stop at a grand Victorian inn that seems out of place and isolated in the great expanse of desert. While The Inn Between is a magnificent and beautifully ornate building, only moments after checking-in, Quinn begins to feel uneasy about their temporary shelter. After spending the night in the hotel, Quinn, Kara and her brother, Josh, discover that Quinn’s parents are missing and not long after, Josh goes missing as well. These are not the only strange things the girls notice about the inn, its staff and its guests. Quinn and Kara must unravel the mystery of Kara’s missing family or risk never leaving The Inn Between.
Marina Cohen’s story explores the strong bond between Quinn and Kara. Readers will be touched by Quinn’s loyalty to their friendship and they will be drawn into Quinn’s intuitive distrust of their surroundings that is matched by her determination to find the answers to the mysteries that unfold.
Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, 2016)
Claudia Miravista has no friends in her sixth grade class, but she knows everything about art history. She spends her free time drawing, and reading about the great painters of the past. Her only companion, a mysterious blue-eyed boy named Pim, lives inside the canvas, where he has been trapped for over three-hundred years. Although Claudia has just begun to discover her powers as an Artista, she is the only one with the skills to save Pim and free him from his prison.
Footnotes of historical facts and commentary about art accompany the story in Behind the Canvas. Claudia’s enthusiasm for art is infectious. In spite of what her classmates may think of her at first, she holds onto her passion and learns to harness her artistic power.