cover image The Wonderling

The Wonderling

Mira Bartók. Candlewick, $21.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9121-9

In her first book for children, Bartók (The Memory Palace) takes readers to a world in which part-human, part-animal groundlings are largely treated with disdain. The story follows a one-eared fox groundling known simply as Number Thirteen, who has spent all of his remembered life at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, where days are spent toiling silently in a classroom and factory. After Thirteen saves Trinket, a daring bird groundling, from bullies, the two hatch a plan to escape the home. Renamed Arthur by Trinket, the fox groundling seeks to uncover his hazy past but finds his trust and innocence tested in dark and unfriendly places. Bartók doesn’t delve into the origins of groundlings but uses them successfully as a stand-in for other disenfranchised groups, with the groundlings subjected to derision and menial tasks by most of the upper classes. Music plays an important role in the story, both as a means of connection and a force for good. Though somewhat dense and slow moving at times, Bartók gives readers a richly imagined fantasy landscape to lose themselves in. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)