The Midnight Children

by Dan Gemeinhart (Author)

The Midnight Children
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From Dan Gemeinhart, the acclaimed author of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, comes an extraordinary story about a family of runaways who take up residence in a small town, and the outcast boy who finds his voice and his people.

In the dead of night, a truck arrives in Slaughterville, a small town curiously named after its windowless slaughterhouse. Seven mysterious kids with suitcases step out of the vehicle and into an abandoned home on a dead-end street, looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren't noticed. But Ravani Foster covertly witnesses their arrival from his bedroom window. Timid and lonely, Ravani is eager to learn everything he can about his new neighbors: What secrets are they hiding? And most mysterious of all...where are the adults?

Yet amid this shadowy group of children, Ravani finds an unexpected friend in the warm and gutsy Virginia. But with this friendship comes secrets revealed--and danger. When Ravani learns of a threat to his new friends, he must fight to keep them safe, or lose the only person who has ever understood him.

Full of wonder, friendship, and mystery, The Midnight Children explores the meaning of home, what makes a family, and what it takes to find the courage to believe in yourself.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong.


Starred Review
A rare (yet well done) tale about second chances and being true to both self and friends.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-8--Ravani is a lonely kid in Slaughterville, a town well known for its meat processing plant and little else. Virginia is a seemingly sullen girl with a passel of siblings who sneak into town under the cover of night and set up camp in an empty house near Ravani's. So begins Gemeinhart's moody, magnificent novel. A Stephen King--esque blend of the sentimental and sinister flows through the story--alleyway bullies, creekside confidences, a villain known as the Hunter with fingernails sharpened to points, and a breathtaking chase through the slaughterhouse's killing floor. The Hunter is in pursuit of Virginia's ragtag family, seeking the reward for their return to an equally sinister orphanage. However, as the story unravels, it's clear that the roving band of self-proclaimed Ragabonds are fine, functional, and perhaps a bit magical, living on their own. Their loving embrace of Ravani challenges his bleak view of his situation, and the powerful connection he forms with Virginia helps them both embrace their best qualities and become better together. Gemeinhart's omniscient narrator features heavily in the text, with an almost hypnotic commentary about souls and choices, but his best work in this book is scene-setting, painting the small-town tableaux fit for any drama required of his tale. Ravani and the Ragabonds are coded as white. VERDICT A tale by turns sweet and terrifying of friendship, bravery, and finding oneself in caring for others--this is for readers who enjoy dark tales with a lot of heart.--Emilia Packard

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Slow-boiling danger elevates the stakes of Gemeinhart's (The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise) imagery-rich novel of transformative friendship. Acute loneliness wakes 12-year-old Ravani Foster the night that the seven Deering children appear in Slaughterville, a town as unchanging as the incessant "hiss-moooTHUD!" emanating from its slaughterhouse. He's the only person to see them arrive, and the newcomers intrigue Ravani, especially outspoken, parasol-twirling Virginia, also 12, who disrupts his routines and stands up to his relentless bullies. But the Deerings have "big secrets": they are Ragabonds, a parentless found family on the run from a ruthless Hunter, and trusting new friends jeopardizes their freedom. Still, the same quiet magic that woke Ravani the first night draws him closer to Virginia, urging them to take the risk--because "sometimes, when two souls leap, they catch each other." A quirky, intimate tone permeates the telling, developed through deliberate-feeling omniscient narration, amusing exclamations ("Holy spit"), and surprising metaphor (words that sound "like the smell of a campfire"). Amid suspenseful scenes and straightforward descriptions of slaughterhouse gore, the story's robust emotional core sees the children forge the story's path as they powerfully change their community through courageous honesty and emotional vulnerability. Characters cue as white. Ages 8-12. Agent: Pam Victorio, D4EO Literary. (Aug.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Distinctive narration and heart-pounding suspense will carry this kids-outwit-grownups tale deep into your heart to the place where courage is born." —Rosanne Parry, bestselling author of A Wolf Called Wander

"The Midnight Children has a dash of the Boxcar children and a whole lot of honesty and heart . . . Told in a riveting voice, this is Dan Gemeinhart's best yet and that's saying something." —Padma Venkatraman, Walter Award-winning author of The Bridge Home

"A creepy, strange, and surprisingly sweet story of friendship and belonging. Equal parts Kate DiCamillo and Shirley Jackson, this book is unlike anything else I've ever read—you will love it." —Jonathan Auxier, New York Times-bestselling author of Night Gardener and Sweep: the Story of a Girl and her Monster

"The midnight children might sneak into town quietly, but there's nothing quiet about this sparkling story. It felt like fireworks in my heart." —New York Times-bestselling author Natalie Lloyd

"A story to make a soul ache, a story to make a soul heal, a story to make a soul leap." —Dusti Bowling, award-winning author of The Canyon's Edge

"A magical and darkly humorous journey into a world of mysterious children, timeless villains, and the undeniable power of friendship." —Melanie Conklin, author of A Perfect Mistake and Every Missing Piece

Dan Gemeinhart
Dan Gemeinhart is a former elementary-school teacher-librarian and lifelong book nerd. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a small town in Washington State. He's the author of some other books, too: The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage, Scar Island, and Good Dog. If he ever meets you, he'd love to talk about books with you.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV028000 - Juvenile Fiction | Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories
JUV013050 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Orphans & Foster Homes
Library of Congress categories
Runaway children

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