Readers who have come this far with the series will find themselves giggling over Sesame’s good-natured bossiness and her...

SCAM ON THE CAM

From the Sesame Seade Mystery series , Vol. 3

That precocious sleuth on roller skates, Sophie “Sesame” Seade, attempts to track down the source of the bug that is making the Cambridge rowing team sick on the eve of its race with Oxford.

Sesame “works” as her undergraduate friend Jeremy’s investigative reporter for his UniGossip newspaper. Her native intelligence and determination are nicely combined with her penchant for hyperbole, exaggeration, and exasperation with the slow pace of those around her. The result is a wonderfully impertinent first-person voice traveling at speed and pitched directly to the intended audience of bright preteens. The young heroine’s middle school–style wisecracking is relentless and very often hilarious as she and best friends Troy and Gemma search for possible villains. Their discovery of a pirate chest hidden in the reeds along the riverbank, an encounter with a family of merchants who’ve noticed jewelry going missing from their barge, and a Nancy Drew–like kidnapping of the heroine offer plenty of misdirection and opportunities for speculation. Horne’s cartoon illustrations throughout emphasize the slightly looney charm of the young detective and her exploits, depicting Sesame and Troy as white and Gemma with East Asian features. The singular landmarks of the university, its town, and its traditions are scattered through the narrative—obstacles as often as not to Sesame’s successful detective work.

Readers who have come this far with the series will find themselves giggling over Sesame’s good-natured bossiness and her impressive snooping skills. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3630-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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