The Midnight Children (Henry Holt & Co [BYR])
Written by Dan Gemeinhart
If you have students that are fans of Strange Things, this will be a must-buy middle-grade novel. It captures that sense of small-town life when a supernatural element is introduced into it, how these new arrivals reshape people’s thinking, opening their minds to bigger things. Ravani Foster is a timid young boy growing up in Slaughterville, named for its central employment hub, a cattle slaughterhouse. One night, as Ravani gazes wistfully out his bedroom window, a truck drives down the street, and seven children jump out. They take up residency in the empty house across the street. Ravani becomes intrigued with them, especially Virginia, who is his age.
Gemeinhart tells his story in an engaging omniscient narrative style that implies we are reading in a modern fable. There are moments where he remarks on the larger, cosmic & spiritual sense of the friendship growing between Ravani and Virginia or when Ravani begins coming into his own and standing up for himself. The moments the author chooses to spend most of our time with have been carefully selected and thought out. They represent crucial changes that all children go through, especially when building up their self-esteem. But all of this is wrapped up in a charming fairy tale of magic and wonder.
If your kids love 1980s movies like E.T. or The Goonies, The Midnight Children will keep them happy by telling similar but more modern stories. It also touches on animal rights without coming across as pedantic. The slaughtering floor is described with age-appropriate but realistic language that communicates the weight of taking an animal’s life. There are some great moments about dealing with a bully and how it’s not about receding but standing up for yourself.