A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Aside from graphic detail about how cows are turned from mooing critters to packaged meat, the occasional big word like "inordinately," and the fact that "Ravani" is a Greek dessert, not much information here.
"The thing about this world is that there's all kinds of people in it, and there's nothing you can do about that...The only thing to do is decide what kind you are, and then be it. Don't worry about anyone else." Finding the courage to do a kind deed when there's a chance to do so has positive effects down the line -- even when it seems like it was all in vain. Everybody needs friendship, family, and belonging. Those things you were taught that didn't seem too important at the time can really save the day at the right moment.
Positive Role Models
Misfit kid Ravani longs for a friend -- and tries hard to be a good one when they appear. Virginia, his newfound friend with a lot of secrets, is brave, determined, able to see through lies, and loyal to her chosen family and its rules. Her siblings all have their own moments to shine. Ravani's parents are kind-hearted; mostly beaten down, as his dad works at the slaughterhouse killing cows all day long -- but the slaughterhouse owner loves Ravani's mom's vegetarian cooking, a fact that turns out to have unforeseen effects. The Hunter, who makes a living stalking, capturing, and returning children to their abusers, is also vegetarian.
Violence & Scariness
The steady beat of killing machines, blood gutters, lung buckets, and other accoutrements of turning mooing cows into processed meat are a constant theme and presence, graphically and emotionally described. Lots of details about the Hunter's weapons, strategies, and how he plans to use them, leading up to how he actually does. In lesser violence, a bully about to spit in his victim's mouth is foiled by rock-throwing kids. Bullies abuse Ravani physically and emotionally, and make him destroy his beloved birdhouses, in which birds and their nestlings are living. In the past, several of one kid's siblings were miscarried or stillborn, so he's been to lots of funerals, while another kid is grieving for her deceased mom.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two 12-year-olds share a first kiss, which is fleeting but important.
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Occasional "damn!", "sweet Jesus!", "heckuva." A bullying kid tells his fearful friend, "Don't be such a girl." A female character who takes offense at this looks at his belongings and says, "I wish I had to pee." Snarky references to pant-peeing and bed-wetting. A comic performance involves the sad tale of a blimp emptying its toilet on the speaker's bakery, resulting in "Poopoo in my porridge. Le crap in my croissants." "You'd be surprised," another character observes, "at how many situations a kid pooping their pants can get you out of."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character smokes cigarettes, not too attractively.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Midnight Children, by Dan Gemeinhart (The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise), has an abundance of violent and scary content. While there's a sweet little story in there about outcast children finding each other and lives being transformed by moments of courage and kindness, it is (sometimes literally) awash in gore and body parts, much of it being set in a slaughterhouse amid graphic descriptions of cute but hopeless cows being brutally killed and dismembered. Then there's the bullying kid who thinks all that is funny, and also tries to spit in his victim's mouth. Also the creepy, very well-armed Hunter who's stalking and capturing some of the kids to return them to abusive orphanages. And all those coffins in the basement of the former funeral home that's now home to runaway kids. Plus a smarmy narrator who punctuates nearly every page with observations about what souls do and don't want, and how they behave, and also about the fateful importance of choices. There are faint, hopeful glimmers of light amid the nightmare fodder, but the long and traumatic journey is not the reward.
Is It Any Good?
There's a sweet tale of friendship, courage, and transformation in this middle grade novel, but you have to slog through a lot of horrors to get there. The Midnight Children features some heartfelt moments of connection and bonding amid the gore, bullying, and philosophizing by the narrator, but you may wish to find such moments in books with less trauma.
"Colt had excitedly joined them when he'd heard what their destination was. His excitement dimmed, though, when he saw the cows waiting miserably in the lot outside.
'''Oh,' he said uneasily. 'I ... guess I thought the cows showed up already dead.'
"'No,' Ravani sighed. 'They're alive. But not for long.'
"Hiss-moooTHUD, the building coughed. Hiss-moooTHUD...
"'What's that sound?' Colt asked.
"Mr. Skinister's eyes dimmed. 'It ... was a cow. At least the "moo" part was.'"
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.