I received this book at no cost from the publisherThe Shelterlings by Sarah Beth Durst
Published by Clarion Books on June 21, 2022
A group of magical misfit animals learns to appreciate their seemingly useless powers—and themselves—when they work together to thwart a villain’s attempt to steal their magic.
Holly, a grey squirrel, and her animal friends have accepted that they will never be wizards’ familiars. Though they are each magical, their powers are so offbeat—Holly herself can conjure pastries (and only pastries)—that no professional magic-worker would choose any of them as a companion for noble quests. So instead of going on adventures, they languish at the Shelter for Rejected Familiars, where they are known as “shelterlings.”
When an old friend appears with a plan for curing the shelterlings’ defective magic, everyone is on board to help him locate and retrieve the ingredients for a powerful spell. But when they learn that his offer is not what it seems, Holly and the shelterlings must fight to defend their magic, discovering in the process that their unorthodox skills may just be what is needed to save the day.
I always forget how much I love Sarah Beth Durst’s storytelling until I see a new release from her. The Shelterings is one of those books that is filled with adventure, kindness, and friendship. It is a thrilling read about misfit animals who are told they aren’t good enough alone, but together they are magical. The story centers around Holly, a squirrel with a huge heart. She climbs the mountain to drink from the Moon Pool to gain magical powers, but when her gift is revealed, the magicians laugh at her and dismiss her. She has the gift of conjuring pastries which makes her a failure at being a familiar. She then joins the Shelter for Rejected Familiars and finds that the other animals with assorted powers all become her new family and friends.
The story starts off with daily routines and Holly keeping the peace and encouraging the others to explore their talent. In the course of the tale, the animals all develop their miscellaneous gifts into useful magic that becomes even stronger when they all work together. Of course, there is a conflict that turns into a battle to retain and be thankful for what they have when Charlie the Beaver comes back and spins a story that he alone can fix their broken magic. When Holly realizes that she has almost made a fatal mistake, she has to rally the other animals to fight for their magical lives. Yep, super vague but I don’t want to give away the plot.
All of the magical animals have something to offer in this battle of good versus evil. The story made me smile in so many places and there were parts that are so exciting because of the twists and turns, I can’t wait to recommend this to middle-grade readers I know.