Museum of Thieves (The Keepers) by Lian Tanner
Jewel is a city beset by dangers. Dangers that threaten the very lives of the children. Or at least that’s what the Guardians want everyone to believe. As long as the children need to be protected, there will need to be Guardians. The more danger to the children, the more powerful the Guardians become.
Goldie cannot stand the limits imposed on her freedom and therefore in a moment of impulsivity she manages the impossible. She runs away. Soon she learns there are people who don’t believe everything the Guardians say. People who know about the past and keep it’s secrets and dangers safe. But they are coming under threat from the powerful Fugleman and the Guardians. Goldie and her new friends will be tested, but will they be able to save Jewel?
I found Museum of Thieves to be thoroughly enjoyable. The world building is complex, particularly when you get to the real underlying questions of power and safety and whether in protecting people you can cause them harm. For younger or more naive readers, these concepts will go right over their heads. But for strong readers and thinkers (likely in Grade 4 and up) these are great questions to discuss with parents or in a school setting.
What else is great: Bonus points for exciting new animals. I think everyone will be clamoring for their own brizzlehound; Broo is so endearing and yet fearsome. Lovers of Howl’s Moving Castle and House of Many Ways will enjoy the Museum’s similar magical qualities. Additionally, at the beginning is an illustrated characters guide which is quite charming. In keeping with the deeper themes, this book does feature complicated vocabulary such as: vigilance, pustulous, maelstrom, imbeciles, abomination.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A man has a bare chest.
Profanity – “stupid,” “idiot,” “morons,” “damned,”
Death, Violence and Gore – A girl is punished by having to wear heavy chains. The country’s history includes wars, floods, murders, famines and a year where “children died like flies.” A man’s forehead is covered in blood. A child is killed by a bomb. Possible punishments mentioned are flogging, cutting off fingers, branding on the forehead and brainwashing. A bird is said to peck out your eyes if you are injured. There are cannons in the museum. A room seems to be made of bones. A girl gets a cut and it bleeds. A dog once killed a man who tormented him. A cavern is filled with stacked human bones which are described and listed. Gunshots are heard. There’s a concern that someone has been shot. A man’s leg is injured. A boy carries a knife. A musket is pointed at a boy’s head. A man threatens to shoot people. There is some discussion of roasting and eating a pet dog. A dog bites a man’s throat. There’s a chance that all the old evils will break free of what is containing them and then thousands of people will die. There are various threats. More shots are fired, one strikes someone we care about. There is talk that a pet will not only be killed but will be stuffed and displayed. There are plans to execute someone publicly. Children are lied to about a bombing. They are told that children were killed, lost their arms and legs and were blinded. They are made to believe that they will be the next target of a bomb. Children say they are going to be eaten by someone. Many men are killed, often shot on a battlefield. There are nooses. There is talk of eating children. It is recommended that a child be beaten. There’s a chance hundreds will die. The Fugelman says the children will soon be dead. People’s faces are bruised. People are presumed dead.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Men drink claret. Goldie smells smoke and beer. A man stinks of tobacco.
Frightening or Intense Things – In speculating about what may have happened to a missing person, the possibility of being kidnapped and enslaved is mentioned, as well as being drowned. Children are always in chains to prevent their being taken. Dangers to children lurk everywhere, in the form of accidents and illness, slave traders, disease ridden water, sharp knives, poisonous insects, runaway vehicles, getting lost. Gods are not trustworthy. Dogs are dangerous. A child’s parents are sentenced to time in a dungeon. The levees are endanger of breaking, flooding the city.