Black, H. (2010). White cat: #1 of The curse workers. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. (978-1416963974)
Curse Workers, 2: Red Glove
Curse Workers, 3: Black Heart
Cassel Sharpe is an ordinary teenage boy and that’s the problem. In a family of curse works he is expendable. It does not matter that working people is illegal and that everyone wears gloves because it takes skin contact in order to for someone to “work” you. What does matter is that he even without the talent he killed the girl he loved when he was 14 and his family covered it out.
He has the genes for crime so he is the school bookie and can run a con as well as anyone in the family but he is not a worker. So, at school, even though he is as normal as any other kid at school, he still has habits and connections to the Zacharov crime family that he needs to keep hidden. As a result, he really cannot fit into either world.
When he starts having dreams about a white cat and ends up sleep walking he starts to wonder if maybe something is not quite right with his view his world. Could it be that he has been worked? And if so, what possible reason could there be?
White Cat told from Cassel’s perspective. As a result, the narrative feels slightly jaded and often reads world-weary. Cassel has difficulty making friends because he does not want anyone to know about his connection with organized crime. Besides, it is embarrassing for a guy to admit that his mother is in jail for working a millionaire. Through Cassel’s eyes, the reader can also understand how it feels to be the nobody in a family of talented workers.
Cassel’s reminiscing about his past also provides a detailed backstory that provides the clues for the action of the present. The character of Cassel is one of the greatest strengths of the story. He is a complex character; both bad – he commits crimes and runs a bookie operation – and good. He is sensitive and protective of his friends. He wants to do the right thing but he also has to protect his family. He is both the crook and the victim.
Black has always melded reality with fantasy in her writing. In this series, the two are so intertwined that the magical is just part of the reality. She has created a complex reality where workers suffer discrimination and that discrimination has pushed workers into a world of crime ruled by crime lords.
Cassel Sharpe is a con man with a sarcastic wit but he is non-magical and is definitely not a worker. So why is he having crazy dreams and sleepwalking on roofs? It is possible that the con man is being played?
Information About the Author:
Holly Black is a well-established, prolific author for children and young adults. Her bibliography includes The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale and Zombies vs. Unicorns. She has also written poetry and short stories.
Black was born in New Jesey in 1971. She graduated from The College of New Jersey in 1995. She then worked as a production editor and attended graduate school at Rutgers (Biography Holly Black).
For more information please see her website.
Please check out Scholastic site for a video interview with Holly Black.
- Science fiction
- Urban fantasy
- Include in booklist of the best of the good bad guys.
- Read one of the sleepwalking scenes.
Reading Level/Interest Age:
- Ages 12 and up
The Curse Workers series are not likely to be challenged in high schools because there are not graphic descriptions. However, it is possible that the actions of the characters may be objectionable to some.
- drinking, gambling, stealing, drug use
- Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
- Ask if he/she has read the book
- Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
- Explain rationale for including the book in the collection.
- Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion document.
- Provide school’s selection policy.
- Provide list of reviews/lists
- If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”
Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:
I decided to include White Cat because my students will love Cassel’s irony and dry humour. It is dark enough to border on horror without stepping over that line.
- Sparks, L. J. (2010). White Cat. School Library Journal, 56(6), 94.
“Black has written a dark coming-of-age tale with a likable hero. Teens will empathize with Cassel’s desire to fit in and his occasional clashes with his family while rooting for him to unravel the conspiracy.”
- White cat: The Curse Workers, Book 1. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(7), 302.
“Forget fairy tales. The first in Black’s new series is a dark, complex Chinese puzzle box, full of cons, criminals and curses–a denigrating term for magic in a world where it’s outlawed.”
“Urban fantasy, con story, coming of age–whatever you call it, read it.”
About Holly Black. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.blackholly.com/biography.html
Biography Holly Black. (2013). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/holly-black