The Shadow Collector’s Apprentice
This middle-grade novel is set in early 1960s small town America. Twelve-year-old Cully Pennyacre lives with his Aunt Incandescence, who studies moths, and her sisters Miggs and Opal, his caretakers since his father abruptly decided to leave the family farm and seek his fortune abroad. Cully’s friend Sam is openhearted and friendly, but another friend Archie has changed into a bully under mysterious circumstances. And Archie is not the only one in town who has undergone a transformation. Other people are also behaving strangely, once they’ve visited a new business – Batty’s Attic antique store.
Cully answers an ad by its proprietor for an apprentice, and things take a turn for the stranger. It seems Batty has a past connected with espionage that dates to World War I, and claims to indulge in a hobby – collecting people’s shadows, using a weird machine and chemicals. Batty is related to the new town banker and real-estate duo who are out to get the Pennyacre farm. But his granddaughter becomes an ally of Cully and his aunts as they solve the mystery.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Kate DiCamillo in The Shadow Collector’s Apprentice, with mixed results. Who couldn’t delight in charming eccentrics battling sinister forces with poetry under a full moon? But the path to return a father to his family and balance to small town life is marred by an underdeveloped setting and plot points that make little sense, even within this book’s fantasy environment.