cover image The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid

Colin Meloy, illus. by Carson Ellis. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-234245-4

Meloy and Ellis (the Wildwood Chronicles) blend shades of Dickens, Rowling, and Robin Hood in the idiosyncratic tale of a 12-year-old American boy in 1960s Marseille. Charlie Fisher is the son of the American consul general and has bounced from country to country with his father after his mother, a German heiress/actress, decided she was done with parenting. This itinerant lifestyle leaves Charlie bereft of true friends until he saves a Lebanese boy, Amir, from being picked up by the police. Amir introduces Charlie to a world of pickpockets and grifting via the Whiz Mob of Marseille, a group of children and teens, graduates of an elite Colombian academy, the School of Seven Bells. What begins as a lark and a way to make friends quickly turns into something sinister, challenging Charlie’s perceptions of the world. Themes of friendship and making amends are skillfully woven throughout. Although the ending is abrupt, the novel’s extravagant vocabulary and Meloy’s attention to detail vividly evoke the period setting and will reward ambitious readers. Art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)