Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars
The Munchkins is a children’s book written by Candice Zee. How
many times did your parents tell you never to talk to strangers? I
know mine did a lot. Perhaps the adoptive father of thirteen
extraordinary children should have told them as well. When a new
neighbor moves in and threatens the children, harassing them
repeatedly, CC (as the children refer to their adoptive father) is
concerned and tries valiantly to stand up to this man who calls
himself Big Boss. This stranger knows too much, like the children’s
names and their mysterious special powers. And he wants their
powers for his own nefarious intentions. The drama intensifies as
Big Boss infiltrates the unusual family in ways they never
anticipated, and for which they were not prepared.
Candice Zee’s middle-grade novel The Munchkins is a Harry Potter-type fantasy that will keep young readers enraptured from
beginning to end. Told mainly in the first-person narrative from
Capricorn’s perspective (she’s one of the thirteen children), it reads
like a memoir in many respects because she’s telling her story and
that of her siblings from her direct perspective. At the same time,
she’s imprisoned by this evil Big Boss. As the personal narrative
unfolds, the story incorporates lots of dialogue typical of this age
group (the children have all reached the age of 10 and are no
longer aging). The narrative, dialogue, and descriptive passages are
engaging and make young readers feel like they are part of the
story. The good-versus-evil conflict is evident, and the importance
of a strong family bond shines through. And why are they called the
Munchkins? Well, that’s an interesting story in itself and adds to the
overall flavor of the plot—a great read.
The Prairies Book Review
Magically mesmerizing and moving… A thrilling ride.
Zee’s debut installment in The Munchkins series is an emotional roller coaster of a close-knit family in crisis, tempered by a touch of magic and resilience and highly likable protagonists. With their past memory lost, Capricorn Munch and her twelve siblings have no idea who they are or where they come from. But the children soon find their forever home after Casey Munch adopts them together. At ten, all of them stop aging and develop magical powers. But their life stays fairly normal otherwise, with school, studies, and play. When a sinister stranger, who calls himself Big Boss, moves next door, the Munchs’ carefully constructed life begins to shatter. Capricorn knows Big Boss is plotting something sinister but has no idea how to stop the evilness. The mind-boggling plot is compelling, and the characters are sketched skillfully. The measured narrative expresses the siblings’ struggles with conflicting thoughts and emotions while keeping the action rolling. Zee carefully establishes Capri’s confusion and feelings of fear, her dread at Big Boss’s creepy ways and his relentless attacks at the Munchs. Twisty, Justin, and Kevin remain interesting throughout. Becky and little Carlie are equally compelling. Add in whip-smart and bold Allie, empathic and wise Breezy, and giddy and sweet Hazy, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. Particularly endearing throughout this roller-coaster ride is Casey Munch, a tender-hearted, fiercely protective father, who’s ready to go to any length to protect his children. Big Boss comes out as a thoroughly creepy, intimidating villain. The siblings’ bond is etched in reality, and it is in this bond that they find hope and meaning that sustain them when they get entangled in Big Boss’s sinister scheming. There is plenty of suspense, and the action never slows down: Zee constantly jacks up the tension, ricocheting from catastrophe to disaster. The chapters detailing the siblings’ everyday lives are compelling. But once Big Boss enters the scene, it’s siblings’ struggle against him that drives the action. Zee’s exploration of sibling bond, parenting, courage, resilience, strength, patience, trauma, and what it means to be family serves as profound philosophical commentary. The cliffhanger climax provides both a satisfying ending and a great set-up for the next in the series. Told in a fast-paced narrative voice with complex characters, the exhilarating fantasy will keep readers guessing until the very end—all while falling in love with the quirky cast. The book deserved to be made into a movie or a web series.
Kristine Zimmerman for Readers’ Favorite -5 stars
If you like to be scared, then The Munchkins by Candice Zee is a book you will want to read. The Munchkins are thirteen siblings who were all adopted by one man, Casey Munch. Interestingly they are not biologically related to each other, but they all have the same magical powers. Capricorn, one of the Munchkins, serves as the narrator for this story. Unfortunately, their neighbor, Big Boss, is a very evil man with some diabolical plans for them. As with any large family, there are some disagreements among the siblings which lead to some intense fights. As the Munchkins get older, they experiment with their special powers and learn that their powers have some limitations. Big Boss remains an ever-present menace.
If you enjoy stories like The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, then you will love Candice Zee’s book The Munchkins. Thirteen siblings are a lot to keep track of, but Zee does a great job in making each of them stand out. They all have distinct personalities which bring them to life. Big Boss is another mysterious but fully fleshed-out character that is easy to envision in your mind’s eye. I enjoyed getting to know the quieter characters like Kitty and Justin, who use their magic to help others. I was on the edge of my seat as the plot became more and more terrifying. Kids who enjoy magic, mystery, and some scary scenes will enjoy this book. The Munchkins is the first book in a series, so get ready to be left anxiously waiting for the next book!
Vincent Dublado for Readers’ Favorite – 4 stars
In Candice Zee’s The Munchkins, you are introduced to a delightful group of characters comprised of Capricorn Munch and her twelve siblings. What makes them delightful? They are extraordinarily odd because they possess superpowers that their adoptive father forbids them to use to avoid unwanted attention. Sounds familiar? Think of it as a cross between X-Men and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. You know that something terrible is about to happen when you open your story with the question of what happened to all of your loved ones, and Capricorn narrates her family’s tragedy. She blames it all on a sadistic monster who goes by the name of Big Boss – their next-door neighbor – who sows discord in Capricorn’s peaceful household. He has that kind of malignant presence that seems to have been released from Pandora’s box. Capricorn is aware that Big Boss is up to something, and as the rift in her family grows, she hopes that it is not too late to stop this malicious neighbor.
You can expect Candice Zee to give an epic collision between good and evil but with a costly price for the good side. The Munchkins is heavy on kids with superpowers, an idea that many young readers will find appealing. After all, is there any kid on this planet who never dreamed of having superpowers? You might say that the idea of superpowered individuals is like an overstaying guest who needs to go, and I agree. But something in Zee’s narrative tells me to give it a little more extension. Here we have kids (actually, they stopped aging at ten) burdened with the tremendous responsibility of concealing their special abilities that in the process become more of a curse than a gift. This becomes a study of the superhero story as universal human motivation to confront existential realities. Read The Munchkins and consider its entertainment and philosophical value. You might find that this is a house guest you wouldn’t mind staying a little longer.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review
Book 1 of the series The Munchkins introduces a rather large, magical family of children left outside a children’s home. Capricorn Munch and her twelve siblings are a mystery. At ten years old, each stops aging and develops extraordinary powers.
Narrator Capricorn provides the first-person story of their lives, which have been completely changed. The story opens with a tragic outcome of this change, but Capricorn rewinds her memories to provide readers with what she can recall of their mysterious origins and how she came to be in a cage, imprisoned with her sister Kitty.
Her decision to review their story and how they fell into the hands of a psychopath traverses their adoption, their magical abilities, and their lives. This provides young adults with all the information needed to enter their world.
Neighbor Big Boss is dangerous. He seems intent on dividing their family with adversity and threat, and as Capricorn observes his influence, little does she know that these devices of division are only the beginning of the end for her happy life.
This story will appeal to middle grades and older; but because of the references to psychopathic behaviors, cruelty, and other psychological insights, earlier grade readers will ideally be more mature, and capable of handling the depths that The Munchkins probes.
Candice Zee injects reflections on growth and problem-solving into her magical adventure that often give satisfying pause for thought: “Chase, stop calling yourself dumb. You’re not dumb. You know, you should really work on your self-esteem issues. It’s okay. I know you don’t always see how serious things are.”
As the siblings struggle to confront a growing evil and support one another, readers are drawn into a tale replete with magic, insight, and unexpected twists and turns, all woven into an adventure of connection and evolving abilities.
Although the Munch children face endings and new beginnings, Zee leaves the door wide open for another adventure, with a cliffhanger.
Readers who like stories of family relationships, changing abilities, magic, and adversity will find all these elements and more in The Munchkins. Its action-packed story is more firmly rooted in family and interpersonal connections than most, and creates a satisfying adventure as siblings fight to preserve their family.
Collections strong in stories of magic and family evolution will find The Munchkins a fine addition.