The Lightning Catcher, Book 1



Kids battle severe weather in mild, whimsical fantasy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

A few actual weather facts (like the basic idea of how fog forms) are mixed in with fantasy (like the many names for fog, including "invisible fog"). There's also a twist on a real historical event: the Great Fire of London. And kids work together to break a coded message.

Positive messages

You have to be brave to aspire to be a Lightning Catcher. And Dougal learns a lesson about not judging others based on their family's wrongdoings. Kids keep secrets from adults and take on dangerous adventures themselves -- pretty standard for kid-centered fantasies -- but it's hard to see why Angus can't trust even one teacher at his school.

Positive role models

Angus is a great friend -- accepting Indigo before his friend Dougal does and even saving the school bully because it's the right thing to do. Indigo is brave and a quick thinker in danger. Dougal isn't as brave, but his book smarts also save the day.

Violence & scariness

Angus' parents have been kidnapped by a villain -- he imagines they're treated poorly, but there's little else known about them. Weather-related injuries include a few concussions, a broken wrist, a burn from lightning, a close call from a "fognato," and dangers from creatures hiding in fog that cause bites, stings, and a fast-paced chase. Talk of children who died in a storm years earlier.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Lightning Catcher is the first book in a planned four-part fantasy series. It has a lighthearted tone and includes less violence than many middle grade fantasies, so it's a fine pick for most kids who can read 400+ pages on their own. Kids trained at a weather institute get some curious weather-related injuries, the worst being a burn from lightning and a broken wrist, and the most curious being a lucky escape from a "fognato" and a "fog yeti." A sweet trio of 11-year-old "lightning cub" students (including Angus, whose parents have been kidnapped) look out for each other and show bravery and smarts.

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What's the story?

Angus McFangus lives in a windmill with his eccentric inventor uncle because, he's told, his parents have boring government jobs that keep them in London. But the truth comes out when a mysterious man comes to scoop Angus up and take him to a secret school on an island that's not on any map. Angus heads for the Perilous Exploratorium for Violent Weather and Vicious Storms, where his parents trained to be Lightning Catchers -- people who study and try to control the weather with curious inventions. The principal tells Angus that his parents are lost on an expedition, but as Angus settles into his duties as a "lightning cub" at Perilous, he and his new school friends uncover the truth: His parents have been kidnapped by a madman who lives on the other side of the island. And as Angus tries to find out why, the school is bombarded with some truly bizarre weather; raining tadpoles and frogs is just the start.

Is it any good?


You can't not compare THE LIGHTNING CATCHER to Harry Potter. Perilous is a secret school, and 11-year-old Angus has a magical ability. And the names of all the characters are just as whimsical as J.K. Rowling's. And two boys and a girl are friends, etc... But author Cameron's world is missing something.

She's having so much fun making up clever kinds of fog (they are pretty great) that she makes the clues to the big mystery a bit too easy to spot. She also doesn't fill readers in on why students study fog all the time and what all the crazy lightning catcher inventions are really trying to do. Will they save us all from global warming? That'd be pretty heroic. There's a villain that gets away, and Angus still has to find his parents, so maybe somewhere in the next three installments the author will, ahem, clear the fog a bit.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about weather phenomena, both real and not real. You can even split a piece of paper down the middle and make a list. Is a fognato real? What about piranha mist fish? What about fulgurites? (One of those is real.)

  • Families can also discuss Angus' special power. What do you think he can do with his newfound abilities? Why is he worried that others won't accept him if they know about it?

  • First-year lightning cubs really pay their dues, doing all the dirty jobs around the school. Do you think the teachers are mean to assign all those chores, or do the kids get something out of keeping the school in order?

Book details

Author:Anne Cameron
Illustrator:Victoria Jamieson
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Greenwillow Books
Publication date:May 7, 2013
Number of pages:432
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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