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“When you were quiet, you had to choose your battles carefully, or else you wouldn’t win,” Mina. –Spark
by Sarah Beth Durst
AR Test, Must Read
In Algorria, storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, bringing prosperity and peace to Algorria. Twelve-year-old Mina has been carefully tending a storm beast egg, and is eager for the egg to hatch. Everyone is surprised when a lightning beast hatches from Mina’s egg. Mina’s family thinks that their quiet, shy daughter should not be paired up with a lightning beast, a creature of fire and chaos.
Unlike her family, Mina is sure that she, her storm beast, and Pixit are perfect for each other. Mina and Pixit are enrolled in lightning school and begin to learn the skills of lightning guardians. Even though Mina has always dreamed of completing daring acts, she struggles at school. She is unable to learn the basic skills and often feels as if she doesn’t fit in anywhere.
When Mina accidentally learns that Alorria’s perfect weather comes at a devastating cost, she discovers that powerful people are willing to do anything to hide the truth. Mina has never been able to speak out, but now without her help people will die. Mina and Pixit both dream of being like storybook heroes that change the world for the better. Is there any way that Mina can find her voice?
Readers will pick up Spark because of the beautiful cover of a storm beast, but they will keep turning the pages until the very end because of the beautiful relationship between Mina and Pixit. Anyone who has been afraid to speak up will relate to Mina, who is happy to let others take over the conversation. Yet within the quiet girl’s heart is the dream of making a positive impact in the world. Mina often struggles with feelings of insecurity, but with Pixit’s help Mina learns that being “different isn’t wrong.” In order to help others, Mina does not need to change herself. Instead, she only needs to use her own unique talents.
This engaging story uses a unique setting to bring modern-day problems to the forefront. As part of Mina’s studies, she is introduced to the idea of isolationism which is explained as follows: “Isolationism—defined as caring only about your own country—had the benefit of limiting the area that the early storm beast and guardians had to protect. Here’s the important bit to understand: all the world’s weather is connected, and more complex than you can comprehend.”
As Mina learns more about her country, she gets a lesson in false propaganda and how the political leaders are willing to suppress the truth because they fear change. However, the message is clear: “you can’t dismiss the facts just because you don’t like where they lead.” Even though Mina is quiet, she finds a way to become a leader. However, becoming a leader was not an easy choice for Mina. Her self-doubt and worry come through because Pixit can hear Mina’s thoughts. The relationship between Mina and her storm beast is so endearing that it will leave readers wishing they had a storm beast of their own.
Not only is Spark an exceptional story, but it also teaches readers that it is possible to change the world for the better. By the end of the story, Mina and Pixit feel like friends who have made a positive impact on you. Spark is an unforgettable story that will resonate with children and leave them wanting to be kinder, better people who do good in the world.
- A fight broke out in the school’s dining hall. A student “launched herself across the tables, and dozens of her friends joined her. . . dozens of other students threw themselves into the battle. . . Mina, unable to run, unable to move, stared as students and beasts fought in front of her, over the tables, and up on the metal ladders, chains, and other obstacles.” Pixit joins the fight, and Mina “felt pain shoot through her arm as another beast bit into him.” Some students began throwing potatoes. A teacher breaks up the fight, which lasts for two pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- One of the students tells Min, “Mina, tell him he’s an idiot. He doesn’t believe me when I say it.”
- Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day. Wind beasts blow the clouds away, sun beasts produce balmy temperatures, rain beasts water the crops, and so on.
- When a person is chosen to care for a storm beast’s egg, the person must spend time each day with skin-to-egg contact. When the egg hatches, the person and the storm beast are linked. Mina’s brother “Gaton had told her what it felt like to be linked mind-to-mind to a storm beast: he couldn’t hear all of Arde’s thoughts the way he heard his own, and Arde couldn’t always hear his, but he could always feel Arde’s emotions like a constant hum in the back of his mind. . . And when he wanted to talk to Arde, all he had to do was concentrate on both the words and his beast. It was like shouting. But quietly.”
- Mina and Pixit can feel each other’s emotions. For example, when Mina and Pixit were about to fly into a storm, Mina “felt Pixit’s nervousness, like bubbles in her veins.”
- Lightning beasts can store lightning, and the guardians can then discharge the lightning’s energy. During a storm, Mina “rose in her seat, and she reached her arms up, hands high over her head, fingers spread. . . Roaring, Pixit flew into the lightning. Mina felt it hit her fingers and rattle down her arms. She brought her hands together, holding the lightning steady above her. . . Mina opened her hands and released the electricity. Some of it spread through the air and slammed down, harmlessly, on the blackened hills below. But most of the energy was absorbed into Pixit, causing him to glow an even more brilliant yellow.”