cover image The Good Thieves

The Good Thieves

Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4814-1948-2

After a swindling Prohibition-era robber baron cheats Vita’s grandfather out of his crumbling family castle on the Hudson River, she and her mother sail from England to assist him. Vita, who developed keen throwing skills during a bout of polio, greets New York City “as a boxer greets an opponent before a fight.” Left to her own devices, she meets three talented children: Silk, a pickpocket, and two burgeoning circus performers who live in Carnegie Hall. Russian Arkady is deeply in tune with animals, and Samuel, a boy from Mashonaland, secretly trains as a trapeze artist. To help her grandfather, Vita persuades them to join her in a heist: break into the castle and find an emerald necklace (“large as a lion’s eye”) that belonged to her beloved late grandmother. Rundell hallmarks abound—clever animals and children, themes of autonomy and cruelty (here frequently conveyed via the era’s attitudes about ability and skin color). While the narrative build and heist occasionally succumb to unlikely moments, Rundell’s (The Explorer) subtle telling and her protagonists’ grit culminate in a dazzling tale of wild hope, lingering grief, admirable self-sufficiency, and intergenerational adoration. Ages 8–12. [em](Aug.) [/em]