Praise for The Light Jar:"A thoughtful and hugely empathetic book: a consolation for readers who, for whatever reason, might be feeling a little out of place in the world." The Guardian "Tense and threaded with mystery... Thompson adeptly draws the storylines into a cohesive whole that rewards readers with a satisfyingly hard-won resolution." Booklist"This is an emotionally resonant story of loss, fear, and the development of inner fortitude... This is the kind of book that will matter most to kids facing loss and family disruption themselves, letting them know that imagination is a useful tool for developing courage in difficult times and that sometimes you need to go back in time in order to move forward." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books"A witty and courageous book. Carefully and beautifully written, this is a book that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Ann M. Martin's Rain Reign and David Almond's Skellig." School Library JournalPraise for The Goldfish Boy:* "Thompson strikes the perfect balance, seemingly without compromise, between an issue-driven novel and one with broad, commercial appeal. This empathetic debut is a middle-grade whodunit with a very special heart." Kirkus Reviews, starred review"A multilayered mystery at once suspenseful and heartrending." Booklist"The novel successfully weaves Matthew's personal struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the search for the missing toddler into a compelling story with a hearty dose of mystery and adventure." School Library Journal"This book is filled with intriguing characters and tragic, mysterious pasts. Thompson has created a modern teenage tale interwoven with classic literary themes like loss, guilt, neglect, and loneliness. This is a story for everyone, featuring mystery, drama, and enough realism to inspire students to research and understand the complexities of the mind." School Library Connection"Heart and humor, along with a strong message about the value of family, friends and facing fears... make this assured debut stand out." Observer"Both a genuine mystery and an emotionally charged examination of fear and loneliness, this is a terrific read with warmly engaging characters." Daily Mail"This carefully judged, poignant story should help those with OCD feel less alone and help others to understand the impulses behind painful acts of repetition." Guardian"A genuinely clever mystery." Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series"A great cast of characters and an intriguing mystery I loved it!" Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling with a Hamster
Gr 3–6—This middle grade spin on It's a Wonderful Life follows the story of 12-year-old troublemaker Maxwell Beckett. Maxwell loves his dog, Monster, more than anything, and he (usually) gets along with his goody-two-shoes sister, Bex. He has a best friend, Charlie (to whom he isn't very nice), and a close relationship with an elderly neighbor, Reg, who has dementia. But Maxwell's parents fight all the time, especially about him, because Maxwell is always getting into trouble. When he ruins a special event for the whole school, Maxwell decides that the world would be better off without him, and he wishes that he had never been born. Maxwell's wish comes true, and he finds himself in a world where he never existed. His parents are divorced, his sister is the family troublemaker, his school is run-down, his homeroom teacher is heartbroken, and his dog is dead. Maxwell sees how important he actually is and how unappreciative he has been of his loved ones. Together with Bex, Charlie, and Reg, he works to find a way to unerase himself. Dementia, divorce, bullying, and grief are touched on in poignant and age-appropriate ways. In the end, Maxwell owns his behavior and apologizes to the people he has hurt, providing an excellent example for young readers. As a bonus, interesting historical tidbits in the story have the potential to spark curiosity and further research. VERDICT While the plot is predictable, this humorous, character-driven story is filled with depth. Recommended.—Liz Overberg, Zionsville Community H.S., IN
An English preteen’s impulsive wish that he’d never been born is granted.
For Maxwell, 12, home is anything but tranquil: His parents fight constantly; his nerdy sister, Bex, 15, ignores him. His beloved dog, Monster, provokes complaints from neighbors. Maxwell relieves stress by disparaging his (only) school friend, Charlie Kapoor. (While most characters default to white, Charlie’s name and home cuisine imply South Asian ancestry.) Maxwell’s prizewinning portrait of an elderly, forgetful neighbor, Reg, earned Maxwell prestige, benefiting his school financially. During an announcement regarding the school’s centennial celebration, with the inclusion of the filming of a popular TV show segment that’s meant to be an exciting surprise, Maxwell deliberately gives the secret away. After bullying and injuring Charlie in PE, Maxwell’s banned from the celebration but disrupts the event with catastrophic results. He flees to Reg, vents his misery, and, via a mysterious artifact, erases himself from his life. He finds himself in a Maxwell-free world where his parents have divorced, his dad is miserable, and Bex shoplifts. Worse, Monster doesn’t even exist. The premise closely tracks Frank Capra’s 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Like George Bailey, Maxwell’s shown the difference his past good deeds made to others through learning their fates in a world where he’s never existed. But slapdash execution, inconsistent plotting, and Maxwell himself hinder reader buy-in. His prior good deeds mainly reflect being in the right place at the right time; the Maxwell readers will remember is a selfish, manipulative bully.
Unconvincing. (Fantasy. 8-12)