The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy
Ill. by Carson Ellis. Penguin Viking Books, 2017. ISBN 9780143787860
(Age: 8+) Charlie Fisher Junior, the son of an American diplomat, is on a semi-permanent vacation in Marseilles. His Mother, Sieglinde Duhrer, tired of being a mother and desiring to pursue her acting career, suggests that Charlie should live the life of a professional diplomat's child from this point forward, and so Charlie is sent to live with his Father. Charlie Junior is lonely, bored and often left to his own devices and the reader quickly feels empathy for him.
The novel is written in a very clever way, where for the most part, the author describes the pursuits of Charlie, but with occasional reference to something the audience should observe or understand.
Charlie has a certain vulnerability, but also status because of his father. On an ordinary Tuesday morning, Charlie witnesses a well-planned heist and members of the mob are pursued by the Gendarmes. With Charlie's reputation and on his good word, Amir is set free. Charlie's bargain? He asks to learn the tricks of the trade. Charlie is quickly immersed in lessons on coat pockets and soon is invited to join an international organisation known as The Whiz Mob.
As soon as Charlie gets wrapped up in this secret world, the reader will notice a dramatic change to the way language is used in the novel. Amir and the Whiz Mob virtually have an entirely new language that the reader must wade through. Thankfully, the story comes with a glossary of terms at the back - it is quite necessary I assure you!
Charlie finds himself grappling with a tough decision. He can either continue the path of danger and unlawfulness that comes with befriending pickpockets or to get out - which would leave him bored and lonely once more. This is a story of great adventure, unlikely friendship and is also tinged with sadness for young Charlie.
The black and white drawings by the author's wife add a charming simplicity to the novel.