The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis

The Whiz Mob

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature, fiction

Medium: Paperback, advanced reader’s copy

Synopsis: Charlie is the son of a diplomat.  He’s polite, he attends social functions, and he’s bored.  He’s working on his studies in the park one day, until a kid about his age chats him up.  The next thing he knows, the kid is gone, and his pen has been replaced with a stick.  Instead of giving the kid over to the authorities, he demands that he be taught the ways of a pickpocketer.  But Charlie never expected the whiz mob, and he certainly never expected the School of Seven Bells.

Review: I think I read this book in two days, it was that good.  The cover and the title is what first drew me to it, and I asked my boss if we could get an advanced reader copy of it in, and I am so glad she did.  In fact, I can’t wait until the book comes out so I can put it in our staff recommendations shelving unit.  But, aside from the cover and title, there were a few other things that drew me in: a gang of child pickpocketers, the 1960’s setting, and the Marseille metropolitan area.  Was there ever another book that so focused on all of my niches?

Okay, so, actual review now.  The narration.  It pulls you in immediately.  You yourself are an observer, as well as the narrator, and the narrator is so.  Dang.  Funny.  Because it’s in third person perspective, we get more details about Charlie, and how and when those details change, which gives us insight as to how his character will progress, and how he develops more into his own self rather than just being the son of a politician.

And then there’s Amir, whom I lovingly refer to as my pickpocketing son, who winds up being Charlie’s best friend.  Through him, Charlie’s introduced to the world of pickpocketing and deception–and it’s at this moment where I can safely say that Meloy has done his research.  And, additionally through him, Charlie is introduced to the whiz mob, a group of kids on their own who think of themselves as a modern-day Robin Hood.  They don’t go after any poor or down-on-his-luck chump, they go after the lawyers, the politicians, the men who can truly spare a hundred bucks or two.

And it’s in this way that Meloy discusses classism: first, we have Charlie, the son of an actress and a diplomat; second, we have Amir and the whiz mob, who’ve been separated from their families and quite literally need money in order to survive.  Charlie’s enamored by their lifestyle, though to them, it’s not necessarily a lifestyle–it’s a necessity.  Charlie wants to leave behind his hoity toity way of life, but it’s his surplus-filled life that the whiz mob craves.  A very good  move and discussion on Meloy’s part, in my opinion.

Another thing that I absolutely adored about this book were the drawings.  Granted, I had an ARC, so many of the drawings weren’t yet available.  Though I must say that I plan on buying a copy when it comes out just so that I can see the rest of the artwork.  The drawings were whimsical, fun, and perfect for the tone of the book.  Ellis did a great job here.

Ultimately, this book was probably one of the most fun books I’ve read in a long time.  I was on the edge of my seat at times, I felt pained when Charlie felt pained, and by the end of the book, I felt as though I was a part of the whiz mob the whole time.

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