The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst

Levine Querido. Mar. 2021. 434p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140763.
Gr 3-6–“Just Esther.” That’s how Esther sees herself. Her younger sister, Astrid, can always tell if people are telling the truth and is a marvelous poker player, and her older sister, Imogen, is a champion swimmer. As far as Esther is concerned, she’s nothing special. Even Esther’s mother never seems to remember her middle child. Esther is looking forward to sixth grade at the Katherine Valley Boarding School, which she has attended for years and loves. But this year is different. Something magical is happening to the ocean; Esther’s best friends, Georgia and Hsiang, haven’t returned to school; her new teacher, gray-haired Mrs. Pollack, is rumored to be an ogre; Esther is having a terrible recurring nightmare; and the school is under the threat of attack by Shadow Mages. Still, Esther is determined to make the best of the school year—but no matter how hard she works, she can’t seem to achieve anything higher than a C-. She will have to rise above her self-doubt in order to come into her own. There’s a lot packed into this sweet tale told in a deceptively simple, authentic 12-year-old voice. Without devolving into a didactic tone, this novel addresses the concept of safe adults, the danger of comparing oneself to others, the importance of telling the truth and standing up to bullies, and the value of apologizing. Readers can return to this text over and over, and always discover something new.
VERDICT A delightfully quirky story with nuance, depth, and a colorful cast of characters, this book begs for multiple readings.

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