Brain-teasing adventure for thinking kids.

PIECES AND PLAYERS

Thirteen-year-old amateur sleuths and best friends Tommy Segovia, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee join forces with two new junior detectives to tackle a shocking art robbery at a Chicago museum in this sequel to The Calder Game (2010).

When 13 priceless pieces of art disappear from the Farmer Museum in a heist Balliett patterns after the 1990 unsolved theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Tommy, Calder and Petra are summoned by their former teacher Ms. Hussey to meet with museum trustee Mrs. Sharpe. Mrs. Sharpe introduces them to legally blind Zoomy Chamberlain (from The Danger Box, 2010) and neatnik Early Pearl (from Hold Fast, 2013). Mrs. Sharpe believes the five precocious kids will make “an extraordinary, unexpected, and understated team” to solve the mystery. Working during spring break, the young sleuths notice seemingly unrelated, reoccurring clues (lion symbols; prime numbers three, five and 13; young men wearing black leather jackets; Mother Goose rhymes), which amazingly come together. Closely studying the stolen art, the five problem-solvers discover that it sends a coded message, which eventually leads them to the surprising conclusion. Juggling multiple pieces of art and multiple suspect players (including an interfering ghost), Balliett again deftly merges mystery, art and friendship into another perplexing puzzler.

Brain-teasing adventure for thinking kids. (author’s notes) (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-29990-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice.

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father, whom she’s never met, 12-year-old Zoe sets out to prove his innocence.

It’s the summer before seventh grade, and aspiring pastry chef Zoe sets her sights on perfecting her baking skills to audition as a contestant on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. One day, she receives a letter from her father, Marcus, who was sent to prison for murder right before Zoe was born. She’s never met Marcus, and her mother wants her to have nothing to do with him. So Zoe keeps the letter a secret and begins corresponding with Marcus on a regular basis. He shares his favorite songs and encourages Zoe’s baking-competition dreams. When Marcus proclaims his innocence, Zoe is shocked: How could someone innocent end up in prison? With the help of her grandmother and her friend Trevor, Zoe begins to learn about systemic racism and how Black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than White people. Zoe’s relationship with Marcus is at the center of the novel, but her relationships with her mother, stepfather, grandmother, and Trevor are also richly conveyed. This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way.

An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287585-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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