The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

the shadow thievesReading level: 5.4
Lexile: 850
Genre: Myth, fantasy
Series: Cronus Chronicles, book 1
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

See that girl, the one with the bright red hair, overstuffed backpack, and aura of grumpiness? That’s Charlotte Mielswetzski. And something extra-ordinary is about to happen to her.

Oh, it’s not the very cute kitten that appears out of nowhere and demands to go home with her. It’s not the sudden arrival of her cousin Zee, who believes he’s the cause of a mysterious sickness that has struck his friends back in England. It’s not her creepy English teacher Mr. Metos, who takes his mythology lessons just a little too seriously. And it’s not the white-faced, yellow-eyed men in tuxedos, who follow Charlotte everywhere.

What’s so extraordinary is not any one of these things….It’s all of them. And when Charlotte’s friends start to get sick one by one, Charlotte and Zee set out to find a cure. Their quest leads them to a not-so-mythical Underworld, where they face rhyme-loving Harpies, gods with personnel problems, and ghosts with a thirst for blood.

Charlotte and Zee learn that in a world overrun by Nightmares, Pain, and Death, the really dangerous character is a guy named Phil. And then they discover that the fate of every person — living and dead — is in their young hands.

Okay that summary was really long. But it was gripping, wasn’t it? The whole book is cleverly written with the reader hanging onto every word. But you’re probably thinking, “oh great, another Greek myth book.” This one is quite original and has more to do with the friendship between Charlotte and her cousin Zee and their maturity than gods and goddesses. I’d recommend The Shadow Thieves to students who want something else like Percy Jackson once the series is over or just students who have a great sense of humor and like a good, clean adventure story.

Aside from colloquialisms, it’s basically ELL-friendly. Key vocab words include shadow and underworld.

It’s also necessary to understand that the story starts in the middle and mostly focuses on Charlotte. Then it goes back in time and focuses on Zee. These transitions are quite clear and are expertly done. I didn’t expect to get Zee’s side of the story…or Grandmother Winter’s, which helps make all the characters well-rounded and loveable. Charlotte and Zee teach us to be ourselves and not worry about being like others while trying our hardest to accomplish our goals. And Grandma Winter demonstrates how to love one’s hardest.

It’s more of a middle school book because the main characters are in middle school and it’s a fairly simple story. But it’s also funny and snarky, which older students might enjoy, too. If you want to get students interested in this story, just read the goodreads summary of the first few paragraphs of the book. Kids will be hooked.

THE ENDING IS SO GORGEOUS. It concluds the book absolutely perfectly. Although it’s the first book in the series, it can certainly stand alone, but it’s one of those books that makes you want to keep reading because the characters are so fantastic.

The Shadow Thieves is my twenty-third book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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