Maybe the real treasure is the friends they make along the way.


From the Mr. Summerling's Secret Code series , Vol. 1

An 8-year-old’s summer gets puzzling when she’s named in her neighbor’s will.

Marly, whose best friend recently moved out of town, didn’t even know nice Mr. Summerling had even died, and she certainly doesn’t expect to be called for the reading of his will. She had liked the old man, who wandered around town with a metal detector collecting junk, but “he was next-door-neighbor nice, not give-you-something-when-I-die nice.” At the will reading, Marly meets her classmates Isla and Sai—and the three of them receive the strangest bequest. Mr. Summerling has left the three of them a treasure, which they can have if they solve a series of puzzles. The three kids barely know one another, but they gamely work together on the clues, each of which is depicted as if a facsimile in Budgen’s illustrations. (Each has one component a reader might be able to solve and another only the characters can decipher.) The trio’s friendship builds slowly, but they solve well together, and they’re friendly kids. Marly, who wears an eye patch for her amblyopia, is startled to learn that Isla wore one herself when she was younger. Both girls are White; Sai is of Indian descent. Both a fun, readable introduction to the process of cracking anagrams and pigpen ciphers and a friendship-oriented chapter book.

Maybe the real treasure is the friends they make along the way. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-09483-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.


It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)


From the Fantastic Frame series , Vol. 1

Two kids get up close and personal with some great works of art in this first in a new series.

Tiger Brooks is used to his little sister’s fantastical stories. So when the top-hatted orange pig she describes turns out to be not only real, but a next-door neighbor, Tiger enlists the help of his kooky new friend, Luna, to investigate. It turns out the pig works for the reclusive painter Viola Dots. Years ago a magical picture frame swallowed up her only son, and she’s searched for him in artworks ever since. When Tiger’s tinkering starts the magic up again, he and Luna are sucked into a reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm, hungry predator and all. After meeting and failing to rescue Viola’s son in this adventure, the series is set up for the intrepid pair to infiltrate other classic paintings in the future. Backmatter provides information on the real Rousseau and his life. Oliver keeps the plot itself snappy and peppy. While there are few surprises, there’s also an impressive lack of lag time. This is helped in no small part by Kallis’ art, which goes from pen-and-ink drawings to full-blown color images once the kids cross over into the painting. Tiger is a white boy, and Luna is a dark-haired Latina.

Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-448-48087-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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