In those days, the museum had four keepers – Herro Dan, Olga Ciavolga, Sinew, and the boy Toadspit. In ordinary times, they would have been enough to keep the museum and its secrets safe. But these were not ordinary times.
Trouble was coming. The signs were unmistakable. The keepers did not know where it was coming from, or when it would strike. But it was clear that it would not be easily stopped.
Using all his skills of Concealment, Sinew set out to find a child who could be trained as an extra keeper. Six of the children he spied on turned out to be unsuitable. The seventh (according to her official file) was disobedient and wilful. She had worn the punishment chains three times already, and the year had barely begun.
Goldie Roth struggles with the constraints (both literal and otherwise) that are placed on her by her family and her community. She knows they are for her own good, to protect her from any danger or evil that she might encounter. But in Jewel, the line between protection and oppression has been crossed, and Goldie has to break free. When she does, she discovers the Museum of Dunt, a place full of magic and mystery. There she meets the keepers, those who look after the museum. The museum is a place unlike any Goldie has encountered, with shifting rooms and danger. Goldie and the keepers must protect the museum, and by doing so, protect themselves, their families and the rest of Jewel.
There are many who suggest that children today are so over-protected that they lack the opportunities to develop their own sense of reality, danger and independence. In Jewel, the children are protected fiercely, so that they not fall prey to mythical beasts, environmental hazards (like water) or any other danger. To that end, those who question or baulk at the loving restraints are punished by Guardians. Parents are full of fearful love, and the Guardians work to squash any sense of rebellion. Museum of Thieves is a wild adventure about the dangers of too much protection, too much containment. But it’s also about the endurance and resilience of children who, given encouragement, are capable of anything. A terrific read, for upper primary and beyond. Look out for instalment two of this adventure, The City of Lies, now on sale.
Museum of Thieves (The Keepers), Lian Tanner
Allen & Unwin 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.