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Malcolm Under the Stars

by W. H.  Beck
Illustrated by Brian Lies

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
272 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-39267-0

Ages 7-10

In this sequel to Malcolm at Midnight, Malcolm the rat learns Amelia, the nutter (child) to whom he is closest in Mr. Binney’s classroom at McKenna School, is leaving in a week. Her family has to move because her dad lost his job. Meanwhile, the school itself is at risk of closing because the almost 100-year-old building is in need of major repairs. The district doesn’t have the money and plans on transferring the students to other schools in the fall. Malcolm and the Midnight Academy, the organization of classroom pets who help protect McKenna School, decide to investigate the legend of a hidden stash, presumably left by the man for whom the building was named. Could it be enough to cover the costs? In the context of a satisfying mystery, author W. H. Beck excels at creating appealing and surprisingly complex human and animal characters, and the heart of her story lies with them. The students in Mr. Binney’s class are at once singular and recognizable, and as she further develops two of their characters Beck reveals, as she did with others in the first book, that they shine in unexpected ways. The same is true of some of the animals Malcolm encounters. The lesson for Malcolm? Everyone is more than they might seem. And everyone deserves a second chance. There are moments of tension and drama and a hint of scary before all is well, but the lasting feeling is one of warmth.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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