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:
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.