Viking Penguin, 2014.
When Marah first went to the market alone, it was because her family needed food. She was scared to go among the magic users who could be dangerous to halani like Marah. Her father had just died and though she was only eight, Marah needed to go because mother was needed at home to care for her brother. At the book stall that day Marah and began a friendship with Tsipporah, the bookseller that would change her life and that of her country forever.
The world building in Sparkers is absolutely beautiful. It is clear from reading the book that Glewwe is a student of linguistics. Character names clearly indicate whether characters are halani, non magical folk, or kasiri, upper class magic users, and make it easy for the reader to be drawn right into the world and the story. The story is compelling and the characters engaging.
This story felt so relevant to today with its themes of inborn privilege and oppression. Other themes of loyalty, love, and sacrifice make the story inspiring and uplifting. I’d recommend this middle grade book to many individual readers and also for classroom and school libraries, but I especially hope that this book is read by groups of kids, whether organized or not. The social justice thread of the story just screams to be explored within the context of the story and in relation to our own world.