By Awnali Mills
Maggie is an Irish Catholic girl whose mother has died and father has gone to pieces. Walt is a Jewish German immigrant whose parents are trapped in France. Kiku is a Japanese American whose mother is trapped in Japan and whose father works at the Metropolitan Museum. Joe is a Mohawk Indian who escaped from an Indian school after he stopped the principal from beating his sister by putting him in the hospital. During World War II, the children are drawn together at the Metropolitan Museum by an amazing coincidence, just as Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.
Drawn into a conspiracy to stop an attack on New York, the children discover that they are the reincarnations of King Arthur, Guinevere, Morgaine and Lancelot. Only by working together to defeat Mordred’s scheme can they save the city they love. But it may cost them their lives, as it has in centuries past. Will they succeed, or will they betray each other to save their families?
I’m a sucker for a good Arthurian tale, and this is a unique one. Goodman writes a rollicking adventure that uses unlikely heroes. The children are clever and spunky, not worried about whether what they’re doing is appropriate for children. Maggie makes a great leader. Goodman uses the traditional New York City childhood game of ring-a-levio (which I had to look up) as a training ground for Maggie’s strategic maneuverings. She also brings in information about the real Indian school Mush Hole that I knew nothing about, to shape Joe’s character. Her setting of 1940s New York City seemed very authentic, but I’m a poor judge.
I liked that no one character was weaker or less effective than the others; they all brought their respective strengths to the table. It was iterated over and over that they were stronger together than they were apart, which is a valuable lesson for children. This would be a good recommend for fantasy lovers, historical fiction fans (who don’t mind their history spiced with fantasy), and for kids who like friendship stories. Recommended for grades 4-5.