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Updated: February 14, 2011 19:21 IST

Adventure in the museum

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Find yourself in a strange world and a museum that is magical.

Imagine a life when you have to be chained constantly; a little silver chain that keeps the adults informed of your doings. Quite a terrible thought, isn't it? That's how it is in the weird city of Jewel: kids are chained either to their parents or the Blessed Guardians — a bunch of tyrants who, of course, claim they are keeping everyone safe — till the age of separation, 12 years. In the process of creating a safe and secure environment, what they actually do is create a society that's rife with fear and unhappiness, where children are mollycoddled to the extent that they never grow up, never learn what responsibility is. People in Jewel don't have pets or animals because theycause disease; a small scratch means bed rest for a month; no swimming because you could drown….

And the most feared place in Jewel is the Museum, which is as good as a living being with its own moods and tantrums. Fugleman, the city's ruler, has plans for the museum that endanger all the inhabitants of the city.

Enter Goldie, a 12-year-old almost permanently in trouble because she is impatient and bold. She decides this is not how she wants to live her life and runs away to the Museum when Separation Day is cancelled. Here she meets Toadspit, an orphan; Sinew, a spy; and Broo, a dog who has some special powers. But her flight endangers the lives of all those whom she loves… I'm not going to say more because I'll wind up telling you the whole story

This is a fantastic tale and the best part of all is Goldie; rarely do you see such a smart, courageous female character. And the museum is one of the best things about the book: rooms don't stay in one place; stairways that take you to different places each time; walls that need music… Mind you, this is a book that also teaches but in a very fun manner. There's no hint that you're being lectured to but you do learn the meaning of bravery, compassion and justice. Most important, the museum itself is a device to show kids that there's no point in trying to ignore bad things; you have to face up to it to gain a measure of control over such things.

This is book one in the Keepers' Trilogy. It's going to be interesting to see how this develops subsequently.

MUSEUM OF THIEVES by Lian Tanner, Hachette, Rs. 295

For fun stuff related to the book check out:

An excerpt:

Twenty minutes later, Goldie and her friends stood on the enormous stage, along with a hundred other children and their parents. This was to be the biggest Separation Day in living memory. Every child in Jewel between the ages of twelve and sixteen was about to be given their freedom.

Goldie's cuff and guardchain were already gone and she was tied to Ma by nothing but a white silk ribbon. Her left arm felt hot and strange. Her body buzzed with nervous impatience as the Protector walked up the podium.

The Grand Protector of Jewel wasn't really very grand. She wore crimson robes and a gold chain, but she was only a little bit taller than Goldie's ma, and her hair was the colour of straw. Above her head, the glass dome of the Great Hall was awash with lights. Clockwork butterflies opened and closed their wings.

The Protector pushed her eyeglasses up onto her nose and faced the audience. ‘There was a time,' she said loudly, ‘when there was no such place as the city of Jewel. Instead, there was a nasty little seaport called Dunt, stuck on the south coast of the Faroon Peninsula like a postulous wart on an old man's chin. And a pustulous wart of a place it was too, full of disease and danger.'

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