Peachtree. Sept. 2022. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781682635186; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781682636206.
Gr 4-7–In an alternate London, children are being kidnapped and forced to shovel coal underground to power the city. The factory is run by the watchful and villainous Tabitha Margate, who has threatened to turn slackers and complainers into fuel. Twelve-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma and his best friend, Ravi, know how to survive---keep their heads down, perfect their shoveling technique, and hope that they can earn an elusive golden ticket that would earn their freedom. When Jess, a new girl with a cheery attitude who has dreams of becoming a plumber, makes a mistake that could threaten the whole line of shovelers, Luke goes against everything he thought he believed in to protect her. When the two of them are sent to their punishment, Luke meets Alma, a ghost that only he can see and hear. He learns a surprising truth and that the mysterious and powerful Ghost Council may be the key to exposing Tabitha and saving everyone. This is a magical and engaging debut with likable protagonists and thrilling adventure set against the backdrop of a fascinating smog-covered London. It has wide appeal and will be especially loved by readers of Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.
VERDICT A first purchase for all middle grade collections. This series opener is not to be missed.

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