The Metropolitans

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Teens, Nazis in exciting, magic-drenched race against time.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of intriguing elements invite further investigation, from King Arthur stories to bits of foreign language and secret codes. Interesting, relatable information about history: the Kindertransport of Jewish kids out of Nazi Germany, and other events as Hitler rose to power. Mohawk kids are forced into schools where they were beaten for speaking their language. The Depression and personal tragedy drive many to derelict lives. Lots of detail about the exhibits of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and other areas around the city in 1940.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of courage, friendship, family, responsibility, overcoming your fears, and using your powers for good. And, along the way, the notion that there's a lot of interesting stuff in museums, and it's useful to know about it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All four of the 13-year-old protagonists are appealing and highly relatable, with secret fears and worries that will resonate with many young readers. The demands of their unexpected quest force them to work well together and overcome differences -- and also to have empathy with one another's struggles. When one character apparently betrays them because he's made a deal with the bad guys to save his loved ones from death, the others admit they probably would have done the same under the circumstances.

Violence

Besides knightly combat with monsters and villains, the characters are dealing with plenty of real-world scary stuff. Taking place just after Pearl Harbor, the story involves a Nazi plot to kill most of New York's population. As a child, a character witnesses an old man being shot to death by one group of Nazi soldiers, and the arrest of his friend's parents by others; he's constantly worried about the fate of his own parents, still in danger. Mohawk kids are abused in schools determined to beat their heritage out of them, and one of them strikes back to save his sister. Characters are kidnapped, imprisoned, and threatened with death by villains, and often perform dangerous feats. Vengeful, creepy monsters from ancient tales are very much alive.

Sex

The Lancelot/Guenevere/King Arthur love triangle plays a role in the story, but it's pretty innocent; one of the kids is shocked to read a medieval tale in which Guenevere gives Lancelot her garter. Tradition's more lurid origin tales for villainous Mordred are dismissed as having gotten the story wrong, and he's presented as Arthur's nephew. There's a hint of budding romantic interest between two of the kids.

Language

A Japanese-American character's mean schoolmates call her "Jap."

Consumerism

Occasional mentions of '40s-era products, as well as the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, Sammy Kaye's band on the radio, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A museum guard who sees something unlikely and reports it is told to lay off the sauce; the guards drink and sleep on duty. One character's father was so unhinged by her mother's death that he started drinking and living homeless, deserting his kids in the process.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Metropolitans, a new book from Blythewood trilogy author Carol Goodman, combines magic, Camelot, and history into an irresistible, exciting tale of four relatable teens on a heroic quest. As the bombing of Pearl Harbor takes place half a world away, four 13-year-olds converge on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and are quickly swept up in the struggle to decode a secret message and foil a Nazi plot to poison the city's population. There's rich historic detail and situations that bring to light issues of the time, as when a Jewish kid who's escaped the Nazis empathizes with a Japanese-American friend who's  suddenly getting the same hate treatment he remembers so well. Magic, monsters, and spies keep things lively as the kids and their adult allies battle ancient evil -- and their own personal demons, as well. Lots of positive messages about family, friendship, courage, and using your power for good -- and great evocation of a time and place.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byA.Ham April 20, 2017

What's the story?

It's December 7, 1941, in New York City, and four 13-year-olds (soon to be known as THE METROPOLITANS) find themselves at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For recently motherless Madge, it's a way to kill a few hours while her aunt wants her out of the house. For Walt, a German Jewish kid whose parents sent him to safety with New York relatives, it's a regular destination to check out medieval armor. For Kiku, it's where her father works. Joe, a Mohawk kid who's on the lam and living rough in the park after beating a brutal principal who was beating Joe's sister, is trying to return a book Madge left on a bench. But when a creepy man does a smash-and-grab on a manuscript page just as the announcement of war breaks out, the kids are swept up in trying to foil a Nazi conspiracy to kill the population of New York, in which the Nazis seem to be getting some help from magical forces.

Is it any good?

This is a thrilling adventure full of relatable issues, appealing heroes, and deadly peril as four teens race against time to foil a deadly Nazi attack on New York in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Fans of King Arthur tales will revel in the intertwined Camelot plot as old battles are fought anew, and there's lots of historical detail about 1940s New York. Much of the story involves artifacts and employees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and readers will pick up quite a lot of information about the exhibits, as well as a strong sense that's it's not at all dull and boring.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the element of Camelot in The Metropolitans. Why do you think the stories of King Arthur have remained so popular through the centuries? Who's your favorite character in them?

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  • What did you learn about the Kindertransport and other efforts to help Jewish kids escape the Nazis? What other stories about this chapter of history do you know? How would you feel if your parents sent you away for your own good?

  • If you had to do something bad to save your loved ones from death, would you?

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