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  1 A Wish in the Dark
Author: Soontornvat, Christina
 
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Class: Fiction
Age: 8-12
Language: English
Demand: Hot
LC: PZ7.1
Grade: 3-7
ISBN-13: 9781536204940
LCCN: BD20070073
Imprint: Candlewick
Pub Date: 03/24/2020
Availability: Available
List: $17.99
  Hardcover
Physical Description: 375 pages ; 21 cm H 8", W 5.75", D 1.2", 1.1375 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources: Brodart's For Youth Interest Titles
Brodart's For Youth Interest: Popular
Brodart's Insight Catalog: Children
Bibliographies:
Awards: Booklist Starred Reviews
Starred Reviews: Booklist
TIPS Subjects: Fantasy
Social Issues
BISAC Subjects: JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic
JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Asia
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Homelessness & Poverty
LC Subjects: Magic, Fiction
Magic, Juvenile fiction
Prisoners, Fiction
Prisoners, Juvenile fiction
Social classes, Fiction
Social classes, Juvenile fiction
SEARS Subjects: Asia, Fiction
Fantasy fiction
Reading Programs:
 
Annotations
ONIX annotations | 08/12/2019
A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him. A compelling fantasy looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice. All light in Chattana is created by one man - the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong's prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free. Nok, the prison warden's perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family's good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat's twist on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice - and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.
Starred Reviews:
Booklist | 02/01/2020
Grades 4-7. A generation after the Great Fire razed the riverine city of Chattana, Pong was born in Namwon Prison. Now, he dreams of rising above his station and serving the Governor, who rescued civilization by outlawing fire and giving light to all through his unique magical power. After Pong learns that the Governor is, in fact, a fascist, he escapes Namwon, prompting the disgraced warden's privileged daughter, Nok, to hunt him. Meanwhile, the oppressed of Chattana organize a peaceful revolt, and as Pong's and Nok's fates intertwine, they each must face hard truths about the oppressive systems installed by the Governor. This "Thai-inspired . . . twist on Victor Hugo's Les Miserables" explores social justice through two young characters from contrary social classes, with chapters alternating between their respective points of view. It's a novel--a stand-alone, no less--that seems to have it all: a sympathetic hero, a colorful setting, humor, heart, philosophy, and an epic conflict that relates the complexity and humanity of social justice without heavy-handed storytelling. Soontornvat deftly blends it all together, salting the tale with a dash of magic that enhances the underlying emotions in this masterfully paced adventure. An important book that not only shines a light but also shows young readers how to shine their own. Luminous. Ronny Khuri. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2020.
Journal Reviews
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books | 03/01/2020
R. Gr. 5-7. Born in Namwon Prison, two boys dream of release on their distant thirteenth birthdays. When Pong escapes early, leaving Somkit behind, the prison warden's martial artist daughter, Nok, plans to recapture him to prove her worth. The trio become embroiled in a rising protest movement against the autocratic governor's harsh laws that widen disparities between the wealthy and poor. The heart of the governor's power is his exclusive ability to create the magical light globes that serve as illumination, heat, and power for the city of Chattana; his guiding mantra, "The law is the light, and the light shines on the worthy," inspires the characters' questions about worthiness, inequality and justice. The rich, atmospheric Thai-inspired settings ground Pong and Nok's journeys toward self-understanding, from bleak Namwon to the peaceful temple Wat Singh to Chattana's bustling, colorful Light Market. While Somkit's path to identity and community takes a back seat, all three arrive at the hopeful final protest empowered by their own experiences. The ending is tidy but well earned, and readers will easily recognize the metaphor of inner light that spreads from person to person as they stand united in common purpose. The novel offers satisfying meditations on moral choices as well as age-friendly openings into conversations about prison pipelines, autocracy, and socio-political action. FHK. 384p. THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIV. OF ILLINOIS, c2020.
Horn Book | 05/01/2020
Intermediate, Middle School. Soontornvat balances inner change and political action with insight and stylistic flair in this fantastical Les Miserables retelling. In Chattana City, the Governor wields a power that is almost absolute and, ever since the Great Fire, he has been the sole distributor and regulator of light. "Light shines on the worthy," he says, decreeing that the poor will live in gloom and the rich in effulgence. To Pong, born in a prison and destined by law to stay there until age thirteen, there's no justice in the Governor's claim. When he gets a chance to escape in a stinky load of fruit rinds, he goes, landing in the care of a gentle Buddhist monk. But Nok, the prison warden's rule-following daughter, is bent on capturing him; forced to flee again, Pong is drawn into a plan for peaceful protest against Chattana's unjust laws. Alternating between Pong's and Nok's stories, Soontornvat tells a satisfyingly intricate tale of escape and chase while raising questions about institutionalized injustices of privilege and want. Her Thai-inspired world is fully engaging, but perhaps most winning are the innocence, hope, and humor she conveys in the context of the struggle for social justice and with respect to the children's growth. Deirdre F. Baker May/June 2020 p.133 May/June 2020 p.133. 375pg. THE HORN BOOK, c2020.
Kirkus Reviews | 02/01/2020
A fugitive from prison must evade his pursuer, the prison warden's daughter, while potentially joining a revolution. Pong has lived his whole life in Namwon Prison until a chance escape leaves him free in the city of Chattana. Pong quickly finds that freedom does not come so easily: Since the Great Fire, Chattana is under the strict control of the Governor, who creates the magical lights that run the city and that are the only lights allowed. Marked as a prisoner, Pong has nowhere to turn. Worse, the prison warden's daughter Nok is on his trail, intent on proving both her worth and that of her family with his capture. Meanwhile, larger forces in Chattana are stirring, as not everyone is happy with the Governor's rule. Set in a fantasy analogue of Thailand, all characters are presumed Thai, and Thai life and culture permeate the story in everything from the mangoes Pong eats in prison to the monks he meets beyond the prison's walls. It's also a retelling of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, and Soontornvat has maintained the themes of the original while making the plot and the characters utterly her own. Pong's and Nok's narratives are drawn together by common threads of family, loyalty, and a quest to define right and wrong, twining to create a single, satisfying tale. A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling. (Fantasy. 9-12). 384pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2020.
Publishers Weekly | 01/20/2020
Ages 8-12. After nine-year-old orphan Pong escapes from Namwon Prison, where he was born, he finds himself on a collision course with the Governor, a powerful autocrat who has built a society for the privileged few. He is unexpectedly joined by Nok, the prison warden's sheltered daughter who, in her quest to recapture Pong and gain favor with the Governor, is confronted with the unseemly truth of his regime. In the revolutionary underbelly of Chattana City, where the orb-lit glow of night seems more vibrant than day, Pong and Nok unite in peaceful protest against the Governor's oppression. Soontornvat's (The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!) twist on Les Miserables, set in an alternate Thai city, sends the young protagonists through lantern-soaked night markets; descriptions of food and place are particularly rich and evocative. Though Nok and Pong occupy the same spaces, there is relatively little interaction between them until two-thirds through the story. Instead, the plot's emotional pull comes from their relationship with other characters, such as Pong's connection with kindly monk Father Cham and Nok's with her conflicted father. Soontornvat artfully builds up to a triumphant confrontation, weaving in important themes about oppression and civil disobedience along the way. (Mar.). 384p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2020.
School Library Journal | 02/01/2020
Gr 4 Up. Years ago, the city of Chattana burned to the ground in a Great Fire and was thrown into chaos. The Governor restored peace to the city and powered it magically with orbs that gave light, heat, and power. Pong was born in Namwon Prison. Those lights represent freedom; but when he escapes from prison, he learns that the Governor controls who is in light and who is in darkness. In this society, everyone is beholden to the Governor and no one is truly free. Nok's father, born into society and now the prison warden, is disgraced when the 12-year-old Pong escapes. Unable to bear her father's shame, Nok embarks on a quest to find Pong and avenge her father's reputation. As she does, she learns that things are not always as fair and simple as she was taught in school. Nuanced questions of morality, oppression, and being defined by one's circumstances are compounded with exciting action in this novel inspired by Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. The characters are resonant, and the action is enhanced by the fantastical Thailand-like setting. VERDICT The original storyline and well-developed characters make this a standout novel. Highly recommended. Julie Overpeck, Gardner Park Elementary School, Gastonia, NC. 384p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2020.
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