Publisher's Note:  

A thrilling debut in the tradition of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull about a boy who discovers he's part of a secret race of animal shape shifters.

Twelve-year-old Simon Thorn's life has never been easy or normal, but things like being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darryl are nothing compared to his biggest secret: He can talk to animals.

But when his mom is suddenly kidnapped by a herd of rats, Simon finds out that he, his mom, and his uncle are all Animalgams--people born with the ability to change into an animal at will. In search of his mom, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy based at the Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms--Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, and Underwater--that make up this secret world . . . and realizes he may be the only one who can save it.

This action-packed page-turner is filled with themes of bravery, loyalty, and finding one-s true self, and is perfect for fans of the Spirit Animals and The School of Good and Evil series.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Children's Books

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den

by Aimee Carter

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Overall Review:  

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den is a solid start to a fantasy series by veteran writer, Aimee Carter. As she ventures into middle grade literature, she creates a whole new world that is hidden in plain view. Her race of 'Animalgam' can shift into animal forms, divided into five kingdoms. Unfortunately, not all five kingdoms get along with each other, leading to the conflicts that 12-year-old Simon finds himself in. With grandparents that head two of the warring factions, Simon isn't sure who he can trust or where he can turn. Throw in the fact that he just discovered that he is part of this hidden world and will eventually be able to turn into an animal himself, and he is feeling a little disoriented. Along the way he makes some new friends and learns more about who he is and his place in this new world.

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den is a fast-paced and adventure-packed novel, that will leave the reader guessing up to the last page. Then the novel ends--still leaving the reader guessing. Hopefully there are more books to come to make this a series. The whole novel is somewhat frustrating, because there is no good versus evil, where the reader can feel like they can cheer for one side. It really is Simon all alone, facing those out to get him. Yes, he does have friends, but they all seem to want something from him or aren't completely who they say they are. His entire family seems to want him only for what he will eventually be able to shift to.  Near the end of the novel advice given to Simon by his uncle really clarified the Simon's journey for me as the reader and helped me come to terms with the fact that Simon seems on his own for much of the novel. Simon's Uncle said, "You are the person you choose to be, not the person others think you are." This leads the reader to believe that there is more to this series than the war between the five different animal kingdoms and who will come out as the leader; this is a journey of self-discovery and growth for young Simon that will lead him to be a better person and greater than he is right now.

Review of an Advance Reader Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  None

Violence/Gore:  (Reviewer's note: A lot of the violence listed happens between animal/animal or as characters are shifting that put it in line with "animal instinct", but because it really is people fighting each other in their animal forms, I tried to be specific in the details.) Secondhand account of bullying; account of character being bullied with name calling, throwing rocks, pushing, shoving and taunting (3 different times); character trips another; boy shoves girl; boy tackles another boy to the ground and hits him; boy wrestles another boy to the ground and punches him multiple times; boy uses claws to scratch another; boy bites another boy; boy warned that animals will kill him multiple times throughout the novel (20+); boy knees another person in the stomach; group attached by rats (extended scene 6 pages); character kicks another person; 4 page account of wolf pack taunting 2 kids, threatening to kill/eat them; mock battle of 2 kids in their animal forms attacking one another; mock battle with 2 kids wrestling/fighting each other as humans; boy tackles another boy, throwing him to the floor and ripping his shirt; boy dragged by his collar out of the room because he was misbehaving by an adult; secondhand account of powerful ruler killing off other people who could change into animals; people in their animal forms attack another person (wolf pack attacking another wolf); secondhand account of someone injuring another in their animal forms resulting in an eye injury; account of character in their animal form as a venomous snake biting another with the intent to do harm; adult grabs character by the shoulder and digs their nails in out of anger; account of character in their animal form as a black widow biting another with the intent to do harm; character finds a security guard that was mauled and left for dead; children are grabbed and kept against their will; character threatens to kill another character if he sees her again; secondhand account of someone having been killed; man drops boy from skyscraper roof; man attacks another with a club-like weapon causing serious injuries, with description of the bloody results and then leaves him to die; character attacks another in their animal forms resulting in injuring the eye; character attacked by another in eagle form, getting scratched by the talons; boy shoved by another up against the wall in anger; character threatens to kill another if the one won't leave the city never to be seen again; character kidnapped and kept in a cage against her will (2 times).

Sex/Nudity:  Boy and girl hold hands; boy and girl hug.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of parents, war between the 5 different animal kingdoms.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  


Reviewed By Sally
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