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It all begins with the theft of an ink pen . . . The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid is a thrilling romp through the streets of 1960s Marseille in the shoes of Charlie Fisher, the young son of an American diplomat.
This story plunges readers into the vibrant life of the city, conjuring up the smell of freshly baked bread, the bustle of fishermen laying out their catch along the quay, the blueness of the Mediterranean sky, the crumbling buildings of the Old Port, and the feeling of being duped by the deftness of its pickpockets.
I was drawn in by Meloy's wit, but stayed for his sharp, delightful characters. When you reach the end, Charlie, Amir, and the rest of the gang will have you speaking the language of blutes and cannons, okuses and dipsys. My guess is you'll also be sipping a grenadine-and-milk while you practice picking the pockets of a mannequin you've named Dennis.
From the creators of the New York Times bestselling Wildwood Chronicles comes an original, humorous, and fast-paced middle grade novel about a band of child pickpockets—imagine The Invention of Hugo Cabret meets Oliver Twist.
It is an ordinary Tuesday morning in April when bored, lonely Charlie Fisher witnesses something incredible. Right before his eyes, in a busy square in Marseille, a group of pickpockets pulls off an amazing robbery. As the young bandits appear to melt into the crowd, Charlie realizes with a start that he himself was one of their marks.
Yet Charlie is less alarmed than intrigued. This is the most thrilling thing that’s happened to him since he came to France with his father, an American diplomat. So instead of reporting the thieves, Charlie defends one of their cannons, Amir, to the police, under one condition: he teach Charlie the tricks of the trade.
What starts off as a lesson on pinches, kicks, and chumps soon turns into an invitation for Charlie to join the secret world of the whiz mob, an international band of child thieves who trained at the mysterious School of Seven Bells. The whiz mob are independent and incredibly skilled and make their own way in the world—they are everything Charlie yearns to be. But what at first seemed like a (relatively) harmless new pastime draws him into a dangerous adventure with global stakes greater than he could have ever imagined.
★ “There’s a lot to be said for a good, old-fashioned caper. Meloy accomplishes this rare feat with panache, turning out an infectious—and at times cinematic—adventure suffused with personal growth, secrecy, sleight of hand, and higher stakes than the story’s protagonist ever imagined.”
“Ellis’ charming illustrations adeptly capture the playful tone and decidedly period setting. A gleefully metafictional caper and middle-grade picaresque bound to appeal to discerning young readers.”
“Meloy mirrors his characters’ capers, distracting you while he moves in for the real con. It’s a bona fide twist that may make you feel robbed yourself. In this case, that’s a good thing.”
“Ellis’ charming illustrations adeptly capture the playful tone and decidedly period setting.”
“Equal doses of humor and action.”
“Meloy and Ellis (the Wildwood Chronicles) blend shades of Dickens, Rowling, and Robin Hood. Themes of friendship and making amends are skillfully woven throughout. And Meloy’s attention to detail vividly evoke the period setting.”
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