This week I’ve unexpectedly finished two books. Two books that I wasn’t intending to read but that I managed to listen to as I was working. I’ve had this for a while but never bothered to read it. I do this a lot with middle-grade fiction. I love the idea of them but I don’t read them. I had bought this after reading and enjoying Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer. This one sounded like an equally fun and charming story. Plus, historical children’s books are becoming a thing for me this month.
Set in New York City, The Good Thieves is a story of vengeance. When Vita Marlowe journeys to America with her mother, she expects to help her grandfather, Jack, move home with them. As soon as she finds out that Jack was cheated out of his home, Vita sets her mind on cheering him up. Unfortunately, this means going head-to-head with a local conman with Mafia connections. When she brings together a ragtag group of misfit children, Vita devises a fiendish plan to get back something that belonged to her grandfather. Can they pull off the heist without getting caught?
This is a fast-paced and fun story with lots of interesting characters. There is plenty of action and intrigue to keep children engaged. Katherine Rundell is the kind of writer who understands that you can’t speak down to children yet she never tries to go too far in the other direction. This is a sophisticated book with big themes. However, it is still told in a very child-friendly way. It’s a novel that aims to teach without seeming too preachy. It handles diversity in such an effortless way, which is just perfect.
As a historical novel, The Good Thieves captures the era really well. The world-building is rich and draws you in. You get to experience so many different aspects of life and learn a few facts along the way. Vita’s group consists of a pickpocket and a couple of circus performers. You get to step foot in a circus and walk through Central Park. The important thing with children’s historical fiction is to really bring the period to life. Katherine Rundell certainly manages to do this and tell a very fun story.
She also introduces us to a group of amazing characters. This is a book that celebrates difference. All of the children at the heart of this book are on the outskirts of society for various reasons yet they each have their own specific skills to bring to the team. The story deals with topics such as disability, race and social inequality. It celebrates bravery in the face of adversity and accepting who you are. It’s always fun to watch charming characters overcoming the odds and The Good Thieves is full of those moments. If you’re looking for an exciting and original historical adventure then this is a perfect choice.