Nicole Y. Walters has created a magical literary escape for middle grade and young teen readers in Charis: Journey to Pandora's Jar, tapping into many middle schoolers' fantasies to live in and among the mythological gods they've studied in Language Arts and Social Studies classes.
Walters empowers Charis, her youthful narrator, in ways that young readers will want to emulate while creating thrilling adventures for readers to experience vicariously. These include having a pocket-sized Nike as a bestie to visiting Pallas Athena in garden dreams. Charis is a smart, brave, and resourceful young lady with angel wings for a birthmark. Despite her supernatural experiences, almost like a 21st-century Odysseus, she remains amazingly grounded, unintimidated by the gods or mean girls, and steadfast to her goal of releasing the gift of hope into the world.
The organizing theme of using parallel stories is particularly satisfying--while Charis's class is staging a school play about the myth of Pandora's Jar, Charis is living a comparable mythological adventure in real-time.
Walters has crafted a gutsy, noble heroine in Charis, one who continues to discover things about herself as well as learn from her mistakes. Teen readers will feel compelled to cheer her on. As for parents, they will not only appreciate the great little mythological primer this book offers but also the fact that Charis, despite her otherwordly encounters and specially conferred status, remains a loving and decent child who doesn't devolve into that stereotypical bratty teenager who sasses her parents beyond anyone's tolerance.
This work is carefully and creatively plotted with many surprising twists and turns as well as action-packed scenes. Walters even made a foul-smelling creature with snakes for hair sympathetic. And the best news of all is that there's definitely room for a sequel (or two).