- Dhonielle Clayton
- MG Debut; 7th Book
- Genre: MG Fantasy
- Background: Black
- Instagram: @brownbookworm; Twitter: @brownbookworm; www.dhonielleclayton.com
- Release: 1/25/2022 (this NEEDS to be in your TBR!)
- Publisher: Henry Holt
- Favorite Character: Jason! I loved how he interacted with both humans and adults; he also had some really great moments that made his character so easy to love!
- Favorite Quote(s): “I’m putting the hoodoo-hot sauce in the top drawer. You know the food here isn’t going to have the taste from home.”-Ella’s Mom. I don’t know about anyone else but I read this as “they only use salt and pepper and call it seasoning”, or maybe that’s just me! Either way, I cackled loudly because it would be a Black mama to carry around something, be it spices, snacks or mini-emergency kits because she is likely to find something lacking where ever she goes.
Before I start this post, I have to say that I’m a big Dhonielle Clayton fan and am forever in love with The Belles, especially the cover (I have a huge poster of it hung up in my apartment, if there is any doubt). I don’t recall when Dhonielle announced that she was doing a middle grade but I know I’ve been anticipating this book for a LONGGGGGGG time and The Marvellers was worth every moment of anticipation! I did speak a little bit about it when I did a live on IG, which you can see here and mentioned it in my most recent MG books post but I really wanted to give The Marvellers it’s own dedicated post (especially after a certain publication tried to play in Dhonielle’s face).
As I was reading this book, it felt like a love letter to everyone (young and old) that wanted to see themselves in a magic school but weren’t written in (no shadè to a particular book…well, maybe a little). It felt like a space where no one had to imagine themselves there because we (I include myself in this) were already there. From the first page, to the last, it felt like a “welcome home” which is so important when it comes to MG & YA books (mirrors, windows & sliding doors my friend). The Marvellers was definitely a book that I know I would’ve wanted to be as a pre-teen/teen and it’s world a place that I would want to be as an adult. I can only imagine what a young Latesha would’ve felt if she had this book in her hands but I won’t have to imagine it putting this book into the hands of my Godson and any other kid I come across…this a beyond beautiful feeling.
I have to say that there is something incredibly special when on any given page, you can see something from your culture, your name (mine wasn’t but maybe book 2? I’ll hold out hope, lol), your identity. For example, when I tell you I got super hyped at the mention of Trinidadian curry…like y’all…Y’ALL, not everyone knows the nuances of different curries, let alone the countries that make them, it made me incredible happy that Trinidadian curry was included in the list. Honestly, Trini curry should NOT be slept on (it’s the best curry in MYYYYYY opinion) and it was taking it’s rightful place in the pantheon of curries in The Marvellerse! I’m in my *cough* late 30s *cough* and the level of excitement I felt shouldn’t have made sense but it did because I hadn’t read that in any other book and I’ve read a lot of books. It had me so hyped that I decided to tweet at Dhonielle a bunch of ideas of Haitian foods to include because EYEEEEE felt that you can’t have a worldly cafeteria without Haitian Food!
Another aspect that I loved about The Marvellers that went with that welcome home feeling, was that Dhonielle wrote in quite a few familiar author names, whether they were adults or students. With that, it felt like being amongst people who care and who would want to be there since they were all YA authors who have really worked to bring forth visibility of children of color & queer rep within literature (of course, it helped that some of the names are people who I’ve met IRL so that added another layer). When you’ve attended as many book events as I have (pre-panorama but even post), you are able to get a feel for those in this world and who not only talks but actually shows how about this work they are. Seeing those names in The Marvellerse, along with having this amazing author who has always be vocal on representation, that made this book a truly safe space.
Speaking of safe spaces, one of the things I loved most about this book was the friendships that Ella developed. Did some of the kids at the school play like she wasn’t finna be the dopest Marveller/Conjuror there? Yea they did but I firmly believe that your people will find you and find Ella they did. When Jason, the homie, stepped onto the page, I was like “you are it” and that he would become the second in what I knew would be the eventual magical trifecta of this book. Then when Brigit begrudgingly came around (you have to read to understand this statement), I felt she would complete the triumvirate and I lived. Sure, they are on the US cover but it still hits different when they step onto the scene. I’m truly a sucker for a great friend group (which MGs are really good at serving) and this one was no exception. They complimented each other in all the right ways, were funny & silly together and supported when it really counted. I couldn’t help rooting for them the entire time like you would any MVP & their team!
Part of what I loved about Ella, Jason & Brigit is that they each brought something unique to the story and I honestly wouldn’t have minded their perspectives (maybe in future books) but it was really important to be rooted in Ella’s first. Ella is coming from distinctly different magical world into another and finding her footing. She’s deemed an outsider and a threat (but unfortunately not in the fact that her intelligence & abilities would leave her peers in the dust) which she handled with a lot more grace than she was given. What makes Jason & Brigit special is the fact that, they too, are outsiders in a sense when it comes to their backgrounds and abilities (I’ll let you read to find out what those are). So when they bond with Ella, it felt like a home (I’m using that word a lot huh? It’s fitting though) was created and they were capable of anything. There is a level of trust that they develop that could be felt and that was super important to the dynamic out the gate as well as to what they would go through together.
After I finished reading The Marvellers, I was like “there was NO WAYYYY that this could be a duology and it needs to be at least three books but really five” (I may or may not have said something to the folx I know at MacMillan) and I was BEYOND thrilled when it was announced that The Marvellerse would be at least four books (I’m holding out hopes for more with potential for YA cross-over because I believe in Ella that much & want to manifest this). Dhonielle sprinkled in so many bread crumbs throughout that made it feel like there are quite a few threads to unravel in this world that extends past the Villain, who actually makes herself known in a pretty unique way (I know I’m not saying much about her but that’s on purpose since she is apart of the experience/mystery of this magical world). It’s clear there is so much for Ella to learn about herself, being a Conjuror and the Marveller world…and I want to be present for every single moment.
There is so much that I could say about this book… How it felt like a homage to the vastness of Black culture but still honors other traditions. How it’s a breath of fresh air despite how many times I held my breath reading the twists & turns Ella experiences. How refreshing it was to read magic that is unique to the characters, their cultures and experiences. How it felt like Dhonielle was holding readers with just as much care as she did her characters. It felt like such an honor and a privilege to read this book knowing the cannon of work it opens up for generations to come. To say that I loved this book, is an understatement, and I felt like it deserved more than just a paragraph in a list when it meant so much more to me than that.
So, if you haven’t added this book to your TBR, you really should change that. If you are an educator, you really should add this book to your curriculum and/or class library because there is so much that could be taught from it. Librarians, you already know what needs to be done! Parents, caregivers, put this book in your kids hands because they deserve to see themselves on the page, having adventures and learning about themselves just as much as they will others. This book is a gift and an offering, in my humble opinion.
Okay y’all, I’ve written enough and now it’s time for you to holler at your favorite bookstore or branch of the library to get your hands on The Marvellers, if you haven’t already. If you wanna chat about this book or ask me more questions, you know you can find me out in these e-streets on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can find me mostly in book centered clubs/rooms (primarily on Tuesdays and Fridays). Also please subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already because it makes me feel like I’ve seen myself in a magical world & found a home there! Yet again, thank you so much for being here and hope you continue to be! As usual, I’m sending you tons of bookish love and wishing you happy reading!