Genre: Middle-Grade, Mythology, World War II
Publication date: Carol Goodman
by Viking Books for Young Readers
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets The Apothecary in this time-bending mystery from bestselling author Carol Goodman!
The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four uncommonly brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum's collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil.
When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. But they begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love...and betrayal. Are they playing out a legend that's already been lived, over and over, across the ages? Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?"
-A copy was provided by Viking Books for Young Readers for review-
If you’ve been following along with discussions surrounding World War II books in the community, you will already know this but there aren’t many World War II books out there with Jewish main characters. Not only does The Metropolitans have a (German-American) Jewish main character, it also has Japanese-American, first nations & Irish-American main characters. The page space is split up b/w the four characters and while I cannot accurately speak for any of the rep since I am not from any of those groups, I did feel that it was done pretty well. (If you are from any of those groups and feel differently, I’d be eternally grateful if you choose to let me know so I may edit this review to reflect that!)
One of my favorite childhood books focused on the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and I love that The Metropolitans actually discusses this mistreatment, making it clear that the American government also hurt people during the World War.
It is so ridiculously important that this book has a Jewish main character because even though there is so much literature out there about World War II, very rarely do we actually get to see and hear from Jewish characters. Walt’s voice was fleshed out and his feelings very real. I love that we got to spend so much page time with him. I love that he spoke up about how painful this was for him given that his parents were in France (where Jewish people were also being forced into camps). He spoke up about his experience in Germany during the uprise of Hitler and seeing his neighbors be taken away, about having to leave his parents behind as he travelled to America for shelter.
Through Joe the author also addresses the way America was treating (and continues to treat) Native Americans as they attempted to strip them of their cultures and languages.
The diversity in this book, in my opinion at least, does not exist for brownie points and the author really fleshes the characters out so they jump of the pages. Their stories are real because people experienced these horrible things IRL (no matter what some dumbasses say.)
The Arthurian myth element is beautifully incorporated into the book and actually made sense. It doesn’t attempt to fictionalize horrific realities, it instead works with them to create a powerful story. I loved how things came together and I love how roles weren’t genderized but rather contingent on the character’s personality traits.
I JUST REALLY LOVE THIS book and I wish I had been able to read it as a little middle schooler because it would have hands down been a favorite and revolutionized my life. Hopefully though, little middle schoolers today will be able to read and love it.