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Omni Daily Crush: "We the Children: Book One of Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School"

We get a lot of mail here in Omni HQ, so a galley that comes with a little extra planning always earns a spot in my reading queue--whether it's stuck with a big handwritten post-it ("READ ME!" Okay, okay!) or, in the case of We the Children, it comes with a more formal invitation. Have a look at what I'm talking about:

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Pretty fun, right? Into my bag it went. I read this in one sitting. (Sure I'm way past middle school, but I think middle-schoolers will read it fast, too. And more than once.) It's a new series about a sixth-grader named Benjamin Pratt who's weathering a few different storms in Edgeport, an old shipping port on the coast of Massachusetts. His parents have just split up, his centuries-old school is about to be torn down, and the creepy old school janitor sneaks him a mysterious gold coin... hours before he dies unexpectedly. The coin, of course, sets the story in motion, leading Ben and his bold and brainy friend Jill on a path of discovery as they learn that it's up to them to keep their school standing. We the Children has all markings of an addictive series: a smart hero (who, by the way, can sail like a pro), a nautical setting rich with adventure potential (I predict pirates, or at least I wish for them), and a budding cast of interesting characters, some of whom may turn out to be ghosts. What I liked most about this book is there's no fantasy element: all the magic comes from discovering secrets from the past, which itself comes to life in the most enchanting details, like a compass rose set into the girls' room floor, a short floorboard that reveals a message three centuries old, a wall full of meticulous and well-worn tools that you know will find their way into Ben's hands. I have to stop before I give it all away, but don't worry: come April next year, when this book comes out, I'll find a way to remind you about it. A message in a bottle, maybe. --Anne

PS: Here's something else that delighted me, a note in the manuscript that appears to be from the author to the editor: "... a real sailor should vet this layout to see if I've got these junior sailors tacking too close to the wind on the southward leg." I have no idea what this means, but sign me up for Book Two.

Recommended for fans of The Goonies (kids today know what that is, right?) and earlier books by Andrew Clements, as well as readers who like Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid series and books by Louis Sachar

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