A middle-grade adventure stars a group of children who can morph into animals.
On the bucolic planet Adoran, Grand Pierre and Aunt May run a farm. Under their guidance are children who can change into animals: Boxer, age 12, becomes a dog; Battle, 11, turns into an armored mastiff; Manx, 10, transforms into a cat; and Wren, 8, takes flight like her namesake. Originally hailing from the planet Ulterion, the kindly couple are also part of a resistance movement working against robots programmed to destroy them. The children, likewise from Ulterion, are clones “developed...with specific animal traits” from Adoran. Once the children’s training in combat and subterfuge is complete, Pierre takes them to an orphanage on the outskirts of a settlement run cruelly by the robots. There they covertly team up with Father Brion to run sabotage missions against enemy buildings, hoping to disable the androids’ communication systems. The Special Ones must also contend with bullies and whether or not to trust strange children they encounter in their cloak-and-dagger world. Speed is essential, because with the robots preventing people from hunting or growing crops, nobody can afford donations to the orphanage—and Father Brion may have to shutter it. In this optimistic novel, White (The Twins of Fairland, 2014, etc.) writes for his young audience with instruction foremost in mind. Pierre tells the kids, “Always control your powers, work as a team through cooperation, be cautious before you act, and be curious if...something needs explaining.” This is ideal advice for real-world behavior, and the author illustrates his Cs through detailed—though sometimes repetitive—missions that also require animal prowess. He anticipates one of the audience’s biggest questions when he explains: “Plain clothes merged into their animal forms, but they could not be holding other items when they changed.” After the Special Ones befriend the characters Bear, Dent, and Bunny, readers will see that kindness and inclusion are the way forward.
Despite imperfect lives, these vivid characters remain role models of perseverance.