About the Book: The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion stars all the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn’t notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he’s ever imagined.
My Two Cents: I am a huge fan of all of Schmidt’s books, and this did not disappoint. He makes me care about his main characters more than almost any other author. The language here is lovely (and, at times, challenging), but there’s also enough excitement to keep kids totally engaged. A really smart, touching story with elements of not only fantasy, but adventure and mystery as well.
Grade Level: 3-6
- Gary D. Schmidt’s website
- Listen to some accordion music like Patrick plays. If Tommy can play the piano, could he play the accordion? Could you?
- Tommy looks at the Cardiff Giant at the Plymouth Fall Festival. Take a look at the Cardiff Giant here. Is this similar to how you pictured an O’Mondim?
- Why do you think Gary D. Schmidt chose to set this book in Plymouth and talk about the Mayflower a little? Why do you think he chose The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood as the book the Pepper family reads together?
- Tommy’s class studies the circulatory system, and you can learn more about it here or, for a more musical version, here. Which version do you like? Which is closer to being thrimble?
- Tommy’s class also studies the solar system. Even if it’s not Halloween, you can probably make a model of the solar system like this one.
- Get outside like Tommy’s family and see what shrubs and trees you can identify! There are some good resources here.
- Most of all, listen to the Bach piece that Tommy plays. His mom was right. It’s beautiful.
More to Read:
- Another mysterious, mournful book with elements of fantasy: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
- Another book where things take an exciting turn for a newly motherless boy: Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
- And all of Schmidt’s other novels, especially: The Wednesday Wars, Okay for Now, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and Trouble