Author: Lian Tanner
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Themes: Freedom, Good vs. Evil
Age Range: 3rd-6th Grade
Summary: From Goodreads
Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day.When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.
Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . . .
I really enjoyed this story. It is certainly not traditional fantasy, with its elements of dystopianism. Goldie's character is easy to relate to. She feels oppressed by the constant supervision and is (literally) chained to her parents, teachers, and even her bed, to keep her "safe". As an adult reader, the use of the "safety of the children" as the excuse for controlling the population definitely resonated with me. There are so many actions in our society that are not necessarily just or moral that have been justified through concerns for "the children"-everything from segregated schools to forcing gay teachers to live in the closet to abstinence-only sex education and the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign.
The premise of the museum as a repository for all of the evil, wild things in society is an interesting one, and the museum itself as a character would be good for teaching personification. All of the characters are pretty well-developed for a genre novel, and you could have a good discussion about how Goldie changes from the beginning to the end of the story. Since this book is part of a series, there are lots of opportunities for children who like the story to keep reading, always a good thing with young readers. Overall, I can see this book being used for either guided or independent reading activities.