The mystery of missing class pets: Is something nefarious afoot?
Second grader Milton Worthy feeds the class ferret, Noah, before class begins and then doesn’t close the cage securely. When Noah escapes, that’s when things get odd. Mrs. Baltman sends them out for an unscheduled early recess, and when they return, she is gone. In her place is a substitute: Milton’s mother. Mrs. Worthy doesn’t behave like a normal sub, either. She sends some students on a ferret hunt while others are ordered to seek blueprints of the school. While the class is on yet another unscheduled recess, Milton hides to spy on his mother and discovers her great secret. His mother is a helmet-wearing secret agent sent from the Society of Substitutes to thwart Noah, an evil genius who intends to teleport everyone to Evil Pet Island. A distracting overuse of ellipses and a disjointed narrative are bound to make this a challenge for readers transitioning to chapter books; milestones appear at the end of each chapter, but use of devices such as questions or comments to boost reader engagement is inconsistent. A mix of prose with speech bubbles in the cartoon illustrations may appeal to readers comfortable with comics. Diversity is conveyed primarily through the illustrations, buttressed by naming convention; Mrs. Baltman, Milton’s mother, and Milton all present White, though the class as a whole appears more diverse.
A new chapter-book adventure series opens with a whimper.(prompts) (Adventure. 7-8)