With “Spark,” Sarah Beth Durst proves that you don’t have to be loud or pushy to make a difference. In this middle grade fantasy, Mina learns that with the support and love of friends and her storm beast, she can change big things.
In Alorria, storm beasts make the weather perfect day in and day out. The rain falls in gentle drops over the farm fields, and the wind blows over the river and ocean to help the ships sail. Electricity is gathered from lightning, and dangerous storms don’t exist. But as the students are taught, every disruption in weather has consequences.
Children are selected to hand-raise the egg of a storm beast. For two years, they talk to the egg and keep it safe. When it hatches, they see what kind of beast it is. That determines what they will be doing with their beast until it reaches maturity, at which time its powers diminish. Mina’s brother had a sun beast, a creature who with Gaton’s help gathered the rays of the sun and dispersed them in the fields to grow crops. But her family is shocked and dismayed when Mina’s beast turns out to be a lightning beast.
The guardians of lightning beasts are loud and unruly, the opposite of Mina. She is quiet, so quiet that she rarely gets to share her thoughts; the words and noise of others overpower her soft, tentative voice. Her family thinks it’s a terrible mistake. But secretly, Mina is thrilled. At the school for lightning guardians, Mina finds her place. She’s still quiet, but she has one friend and slowly makes more.
But when Mina accidentally ends up in the forbidden land outside of Alorria, she discovers something that rocks the foundation of her beliefs about her country and the storm beasts. But what can one very quiet girl do against a government that hides the truth?
Children will love reading about how Mina’s lightning beast, Pixit, helps her find her voice. She realizes that with the support of friends, they can make people listen. And once people hear the truth, most of them want to make things right.
Durst writes a lovely story filled with imagination and creativity about how important it is to listen to others, even the quiet ones. It’s also a message to the quiet readers, the ones who are reluctant to make their voices heard. Speak up, make people listen, stand up for what is right. And that’s a wonderful message for everyone.
Please note: This review is based on the advanced reader’s copy provided by the author for review purposes.