Brain-teasing adventure for thinking kids.

READ REVIEW

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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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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