cover image Pilfer Academy: A School So Bad It’s Criminal

Pilfer Academy: A School So Bad It’s Criminal

Lauren Magziner. Dial, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3919-2

George’s mother has nicknamed him “Naughty George” for his habit of stealing from his siblings and causing chaos at home. These same skills have caught the attention of the secret Pilfer Academy of Filching Arts, which enrolls students by kidnapping them and whisking them off to a castle—a stolen one, naturally—full of ill-gotten artifacts like Michelangelo’s David (the one in Italy is an imitation, readers learn). At Pilfer, students train to become top-notch crooks, and while George, who is snatched as the book begins, gets a nasty new roommate, he also finds a best friend in a talented girl named Tabitha. Magaziner (The Only Thing Worse Than Witches) establishes an anything-can-happen atmosphere from the start (one of George’s abductors speaks only in malapropisms, while the other tries to locate the North Star by staring at the sun through binoculars), and the goofiness, pranks, and student sabotage don’t let up from there. As George decides whether he truly aspires to a life of crime, Magaziner delivers an entirely enjoyable twist on a classic boarding school adventure. Ages 8–12. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Feb.)