Aimee Carter, Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den, Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin, March 2016, 320 pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781408858011
Although Carter uses the universal theme of semi-orphaned child in danger but protected by supernatural powers (Cinderella/Harry Potter, etc) the author takes the main character, and therefore the readers, away on all manner of delightful twists and turns. An overarching theme of the book is knowing who to trust, which this is well illustrated by these twists and turns.
Simon is a 12-year-old boy who lives with his uncle in an apartment in New York. He is bullied at school and yearns to spend more time with his mother who visits only occasionally. He can speak to animals and has some funny but limited conversations with pigeons whose main goal in life is to eat as much as possible. The conversations are limited because they are in simple sentences: it is, after all, unnecessary to use complex or compound sentences if you are only indicating that you wish to be fed again.
At the beginning of the story, Simon’s main problems are avoiding being beaten up and dealing with flocks of demanding pigeons. This changes rapidly, when herds of rats kidnap his mother while she is visiting and Simon discovers that he is an important child of parents from different magical kingdoms: one kingdom of people who can change into birds and one of people who can change into land mammals. Simon is an Animalgam – someone who is born to change into an animal at will.
Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den is an exciting, funny book suitable for children 9-12.
Reviewed by Katy Gerner