{Review} PILFER ACADEMY by Lauren Magaziner

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  THE SMALL TRUCK HAD parked two houses away from George's home so as not to arouse suspicion. But the neighbors kept looking at it, tapping their feet expectantly before getting frustrated and moving on. One toddler even banged on the side of the window and shouted "CHIPPITCH!" until her mom dragged her away, still screaming and thrashing about.
pg. 5, US Hardcover Edition) 




There are a lot of books out there that explore a hero who is...well...naughty, who isn't exactly the  poster child for a stand-up member of society. But I haven't had the pleasure of reading a lot of books that tackle this subject with as much laugh-out loud humor as PILFER ACADEMY. I keep saying that if the Harry Potter series and the Series of Unfortunate Events books had a book baby, it would be this wonder piece of fiction right here. You've got a school setting with quirky teachers who have a hard time posing as normal humans. And you've got narration that is engaging and silly, the type of brilliant character titles and silly sayings that stay in your mind long after you've read the book. I'm legitimately waiting for someone to develop Triple-Diple Ultra-Deluxe Melty Creamy Creamer Rainbow Swizzle Milk Munch ice cream. I mean seriously, how good does that sound?

George starts out as a delightful anti-hero of sorts; forever in trouble for pilfering things from his family members. And that's how he ends up getting kidnapped, having been watched for signs of thievery skills by staff members at the school. After the initial shock wears off, it turns out that George is actually very good at theivery. What I love about this book is that the humor feels so natural. None of the conversations feel overly mature for the age of the characters we're dealing with. These kids are smart, but they are just that--kids--and the interactions they have feel so real that you become half convinced that this school actually exists and you are a fly on the wall.

The story starts getting really good for me when our hero starts to realize that despite the fact he's good at being a thief, it doesn't make him feel all that good inside. There is this brilliantly subtle undertone that Magaziner sneaks into the storyline here: an idea that just because you are occasionally naughty, it doesn't mean your whole personality and moral compass can be labeled as bad. For George, there's a big difference between swiping some personal belongings from his siblings, and stealing a teddy bear from an innocent toddler. What is suggested here is that we are all more than one thing. We are naughty and kind, we are sneaky and courageous, our morality is sometimes fluid and not so easy to pin down and slip into a box.

Reading PILFER ACADEMY took me back to the years I was first discovering Roald Dahl. The world that's created in this book is simple but so vivid; made of brightly colored characters and a squiggly whirly-blerg ride of a plot. I mean...a Dean named Dean Deanbuggle...that's a label designed to tickle your tongue when you say it, and it tickles your mind as well. There's something about the quirky characters that give you the same sort of belly laugh worthy entertainment as old school Sunday morning cartoons, and they stay engaging through the entire story.

Friendship also has a heartwarming and strong place in the series. George and Tabitha are partners in crime, best friends. They compliment each other so well, and their conversations are some of my favorites in the entire book. They question the school around them with an fearless innocence that only children have, and when they decide to do something about their predicament, their imaginations know no end! I don't think there's a child out there that wouldn't get a kick out of the book's ending, the master plan that unravels, and the way Tabitha and George stick it through till the very end. Of course, I won't spoil it for you; you'll just have to enroll in PILFER ACADEMY yourself. I'm sure Dean Dean Deanbugle would welcome you.

In all seriousness though, in terms of age range recommendations, I'd say PILFER ACADEMY is great for middle-grade readers, and those of us upper level readers who like to take a nostalgic walk through the children's section every now and then...just for the fun of it. What Magaziner does is use humorous and quirky narration while still maintaining a plot that grows and provides elements that challenge the reader. Not only that but it's a fun read...so it's great for anyone who has reluctant readers who might need a humorous bump to get those pages turning.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: --
Language: G ( a lot of silliness, but language content is appropriate for all ages)
Violence: --
Other:  --

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover of Pilfer Academy has a delightfully whimsical atmosphere. What I love is that every aspect of it contributed to the overall them of pilfering. 

The words don't just sit there and display title and author name, they interact. A student is shimmying down a rope with Y from academy in tow.  The R in Magaziner is being pilfered from the bottom right hand corner. 

Every bit of the cover design has a purpose and works to pull your eye and make you wonder about the story within.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Lauren Magaziner
Release Date: February 16th, 2016
Publisher: Dial Books // Penguin
Received: Purchased

Troublemaking George has never heard of Pilfer Academy,  a top-secret school for cultivating young crooks, until he's kidnapped as its newest student. The teachers are kooky at best, and naughty does not even begin to describe his sneaky, smart, and morally bankrupt new classmates. Between disguise classes, cracking safes, and DIY gadgets, George becomes and expert bandit and finds true friendship with Tabitha, his new partner-in-crime. But everything is ruined when George comes to a shocking realization: He is just too good-hearted to be a thief!

Unfortunately, not thieving  is not an option at Pilfer Academy, and "misbehaving" students face Dean Deanbuggle's favorite punishment -- The Whirleyblerg! In order to gain their freedom, George and Tabitha must pull the biggest heist the school has ever seen  and reveal their true colors not as thieves, but as kind (and, okay, mischievous) kids.