The Shelterlings Published by HarperCollins on June 21, 2022
Source: Netgalley Arc
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / General, Juvenile Fiction / Animals / General, Juvenile Fiction / Animals / Squirrels, Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic, Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Friendship, Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
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Format: Ebook Arc
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A group of magical misfit animals learns to appreciate their seemingly useless powers—and themselves—when they work together to thwart a villain’s attempt to steal their magic.
Holly, a grey squirrel, and her animal friends have accepted that they will never be wizards’ familiars. Though they are each magical, their powers are so offbeat—Holly herself can conjure pastries (and only pastries)—that no professional magic-worker would choose any of them as a companion for noble quests. So instead of going on adventures, they languish at the Shelter for Rejected Familiars, where they are known as “shelterlings.”
When an old friend appears with a plan for curing the shelterlings’ defective magic, everyone is on board to help him locate and retrieve the ingredients for a powerful spell. But when they learn that his offer is not what it seems, Holly and the shelterlings must fight to defend their magic, discovering in the process that their unorthodox skills may just be what is needed to save the day.
The Shelterings is a novel centered around talking animals with magic, those who have been granted magic from the unique pond. Some are given powers that are deemed valid and are paired with a wizard as a familiar. Others’ magic is considered nonbeneficial, so they live in a shelter for rejected familiars. My favorite character is holly, a squirrel who can conjure pastries.
The Shelterings emphasizes the critical lesson of accepting that we are unique; nothing makes anyone more special. They know how amazing your talents are and how useful they are to how the world can become a better place. The story is simple and easy to follow and holds important truths all middle-graders will need to hear and hold dear.
We all struggle with choices about what kind of human/creature you choose to be, choices about your actions with others, and choices about who to trust and believe. The Shelterings would be a great discussion book for a classroom as the themes are honest discussion stepping stones. Sarah beth durst hits it out of the park with another remarkable middle-grade novel.