Shadow Children are Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Scholastic, New York, 1998; 153 pages.

Luke’s mom always wanted four children so she could name them after the Gospel writers.  But after Matthew and Mark, the government instituted a two-child limit for all families.  When she got pregnant for the third time, she hid her pregnancy and ultimately kept the child, Luke, hidden as well.  Life was restricted to the house and the farm for Luke; no school or friends like his brothers.  Then the government bought the woods that had kept their farm secluded from view to build a housing project for Barons.  Barons were made up of the few families that still had privileges in the new order.  This dystopia was created in response to a world-wide famine.  By controlling family size, crops grown, and income levels (which prevents conspicuous consumption), the government hoped to prevent another catastrophe.  Instead, they created a hidden population of “Shadow Children” and a small group of Barons that live above the rules.  Luke is shocked to discover another Shadow Child, Jen, in the new development of Barons.  It is Jen that teaches Luke about the discrepencies between the government’s rules and life before the laws.  It is Jen that works underground to create a world in which farmers grow whatever crops they want and families can have as many children as they want.  When her rally for the Shadow Children goes horribly wrong, Jen’s dad helps Luke get a fake ID to move out of the shadows.  As the story ends, Luke leaves the family farm behind and vows to free all of the children living in the shadows.

I was struck by the similarities between this book and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  Both books feature strong teens determined to unmask their utopian societies to reveal the dystopia.  I found Among the Hidden much easier to read with very short chapters and lower-level vocabulary.  I think it would be a good alternative to The Giver for reluctant or less-capable children to read and discuss.  In addition, Among the Hidden is the first book in the Shadow Children sequence.  If children enjoyed this book, it would be easy to convince them to read the next book in the series and hopefully “hook” them on reading.

I read this book to participate in a middle school reading discussion group (thanks, Jill, for inviting me to participate and add another experience to my library education!!!).  In researching the book, I learned that it has earned numerous awards, not the least of which was YALSA’s “Top 10 Best Books for YA” in 1999.  It is also a choice for YALSA’s “Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.”  If the discussion group likes this book, we will read the second book in the series for November.  I’m hoping they will–I’d like to learn what happens to Luke and the other Shadow Children.

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 5-8 (and older Hi-Lo readers)

AmongTheHiddenCover Art: The version I read had a pale, worried boy peering out from behind a shadowy tree trunk with other shadowy figures in the twilight image of a house.  Very interesting, it should pique the interest of the intended audience.  Why is he almost sick looking?  Why all the shadows?  It ties in very well with the title; and adding the name of the series helps generate interest as well.

From Reading List: Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers; Best Books for YA

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. N Messmore
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 16:51:50

    Thanks!

  2. Annie Otto
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 13:57:07

    Interesting. What a good list of books for Christmas – and what a good summary of the books listed here. Great work.

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