Simon Thorn is lonely. He lives in a small Manhattan apartment with his uncle. His mother is super busy with work and travels constantly. His only friend at school has ditched him and gone over to the bully’s side. On top of all that Simon’s afraid he’s a freak. He can talk to animals and understand their replies.
It’s all a lot to handle, but it’s about to get much worse. In one day Simon’s old, lonely life becomes a thing of the past. Simon’s world opens up when he learns about another hidden world, one in which people can morph into animals and the different animal kingdoms make alliances or battle one another. Before he knows it, Simon’s in a fight to save lives – his own and his mother’s.
I received an advance reader copy of the second book in this series, Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit at the International Literacy Association’s conference. As soon as I finished it I went scurrying to my library’s website to find myself a copy of the first book, Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den. This is a series I look forward to reading through. It looks like there will be five books in all.
I found Simon a tremendously sympathetic character. He’s had a tough life and he’s impulsive, but he focuses on doing good. Carter imbued the story with realistic emotional struggles of middle school kids even as she places them in a fantasy world that thrusts them into epic battles. My chief disappointment in the characterization of Simon and his friends is that though they in no way comprise the “in” and accepted crowd among the Animalgams (people who can turn into animals), they are the heirs of the leaders of the animal kingdoms, a fact that sticks in my progressive craw a bit.
I think this is a fabulous new series that will appeal to readers of adventure that love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. If you’re an elementary or middle school teacher or librarian, start your students reading Simon Thorn now. They’ll have some great new books to look forward to in the future. I’ll be reviewing Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit closer to its release date in February 2017, and I’m already waiting impatiently for the third book in the series.