If the character’s name looks familiar then you have enjoyed the successful YA trilogy, THE LOOKING GLASS WARS. Hatter Madigan returns as a 13-year-old in this MG prequel. I don’t recall a YA series that reverses direction and explores a main characters earlier years in a second series. I’m glad to see it happen here.
This will be fun for those familiar with Hatter Madigan, and a good lead-in for many young readers who won’t be ready for the older Hatter for a few years. Regardless, both groups can enjoy the fantasy filled introduction to Wonderland and the Millinery Academy.
It’s like a literary blender where Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, and Alice in Wonderland are thrown in the mix and, no wait, that would be a mess. In this case though it comes out fresh and appealing.
Hatter has inner doubts that often prevail with this age group, but he also has the potential to chase his fears away. And there are many in this fantastic introduction. Smart, exciting, and it will leave you breathless for more.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016 PAGE COUNT: 408
FULL PLOT (From Automatic Publishing) Swordplay! Newfound friendships! School bullies! Budding love! Self-serving rivals! Scheming adults and soulless rebel plotters! Welcome, to the world of Cadet Hatter Madigan, who has just entered Wonderland’s Millinery academy as one of the freshmen ‘Caps’. Those born to be Royal Bodyguards are trained at one of the four academies (Heart, Clubs Diamond, Spade) linked to the royal houses. Cadets will study the mystic and martial arts, as well as the sometimes more difficult art of successfully dealing with others. Once Hatter begins his training he is thrown into a competitive world of both boys and girls vying to be the best. Arsenal cubes, blade chasers and Hat blocking 101 are all rites of passage the young milliners first take on together but must eventually perfect, separately.
As readers of The Looking Glass Wars already know, Hatter will grow up to one day serve as bodyguard to two queens and become Wonderland’s most famous traveler. But in the Young Hatter series—each installment of which chronicles a single year of our hero’s education—readers can live through the experiences that shaped this extraordinary Wonderlander. They will share young Hatter’s joy as he forges new friendships at the Millinery; suffer his frustrations as he strives to maintain these friendships; come, and witness young Hatter struggle with the first stirrings of love; watch him defend himself against rival cadets and contend with the expectations of teachers all too familiar with his infamous older brother … and all while he tries to keep up with his studies.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: HATTER MADIGAN: THE GHOST IN THE H.A.T.B.O.X. by Frank Beddor with Adrienne Kress
- Students create their own top hat that they’ll eventually learn to use as a weapon. I can just hear the MG audience croon, “Cool.”
- The issues and fears that Hatter has are the same you’d find in kids today. Changing friendships, popularity, hurt feelings, family trauma, and making the right choices to please everyone.
- There are several tense fight scenes that will have your heart racing. Some are with beasts (see cover), classmates, and holograms. They each serve to keep the pages turning and the plot fulfilled.
- Excellent supporting cast of characters, both male and female. Each with distinct personalities including Newton, his blind friend. Yes, there are bullies, but Hatter learns to control their immature behavior.
- The relationship Hatter has with his older brother, Dalton, is mysterious. They were both raised at the academy as orphans but seem to be nothing like each other in Hatter’s eyes. By the end of the book we discover the reasons why.
FAVORITE LINES: “You cannot pick and choose,” Orlage continued, “although through experience I know you all likely already have your preference. The decision will be made by the eeries. Remember, cadets at every level fail and leave the institution, but none more than Caps. You are not as smart as you think you are, talented as your parents have led you to believe, or brave as you will need to become if you are to graduate. If you get homesick, I don’t want to hear about it. I am not your mother.”
INTERESTING TIDBITS from Frank Beddor’s Website: Beddor, who had been a high-level freestyle skier, broke into the business by producing the 1998 thriller “Wicked,” the first major role for Julia Stiles. He followed that with the comedy “There’s Something About Mary,” which grossed $360 million worldwide and starred Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz.
Current projects include “Hatter Madigan,” which is being developed as an animated children’s show with former Marvel Head of Animation Eric Rollman; “The Looking Glass Wars,” which is in the works as a Broadway musical with composer Ryan Oliver Scott and playwright-TV writer Jon Caren; Eric Laster’s murder mystery “Static” is being developed with “Con Man” producer PJ Haarsma for digital; and “Spectrum,” the fictional TV show at the center of the “Con Man” series, will get its own TV show.
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.