The Shadow Thieves
by Anne Ursu
Book 1 of the Cronus Chronicles
Charlotte’s life is pretty normal until her fabulously popular cousin Zee visits from England. Sent to America after several of his friends become seriously ill, Zee thinks everything will return to normal, but instead, a strange man in a tuxedo is lurking the streets and his new friends are starting to get sick too. Soon the cousins are facing a world full of Greek mythology that would make Percy Jackson flinch and Charlotte and Zee are the only ones standing between a nasty guy named Phil and a plot to take over the Underworld.
I started with something like, “who here liked Percy Jackson?”. It engaged the students and kind of “woke them up”. One particularly eager class spoke up and said no, they didn’t care for it, and another was still eager to talk about the book versus the movie. This was also my lead off book, so it showed the teens right off that I wasn’t just going to talk at them.
After one or two classes, I also conversationally added that the most annoying think about Zee is that, despite being great at everything and popular, he is also super likable so he is almost impossible to hate. Some classes responded well, and some just stared at me blankly (I’m getting used to that….). I threw in a detail here or there depending on the reaction of the audience just to make it more fun. One group of girls seemed interested that there was a strong female character, so I made a point to tell them that I really liked Charlotte because she is funny and smart without being geeky and she makes mistakes. Plus, I loved that Zee and Charlotte had no special powers at all. Throw in a little, “eat that, Percy” angle, and kids who are tiring of that series will laugh with you while the ones who love it perhaps consider it a serious contender.
For this group, I also added that the author lives in Cleveland, so there was a degree of local relevance as well.
I also like to talk about the cover, because I admitted to these classes early on that, although I know I shouldn’t, I totally judge books by their cover. (Like a good librarian, I tell them that this has led me to some great books I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, and to some real stinkers. And it is totally true.) For this one, I found the tree to be striking and haunting and after shelving it a few times, wanted to know more.
I think it is good also to tell why you chose the book in the first place. In this case, I loved Percy Jackson, but I was waiting for the next in the series and I was kind of tired of the boys having all the fun. When I picked up this one and saw what it was about, it seemed a perfect fit.