Laurie does not want to be a Tuckernuck Clucker. Her plan: Stay long enough to solve the puzzle posed by the school’s founder, reap the promised treasure, then transfer to Hamilton Junior High.
Laurie is embarrassed by the Clucker regalia (chicken hats!). Worse, she is paired as Gerbil Monitor with Bud, the outcast who had sugary treats banned from school. It is while chasing an escaped gerbil that Laurie and Bud discover the first clue in the 80-year-old challenge. While the premise is familiar, children will delight in the over-the-top treatment and fresh delivery. The third-person narration indulges the comical, self-involved dramas of preteens. Nor are Laurie and Bud especially interested in the clues’ highbrow references. After asking a teacher about Keats, Laurie assures him: “No, it’s fine, I don’t need to study him.” Readers also find tips from Laurie on “How to Elude a Persistent and Overeager English Teacher,” which include “Make excuses and back away slowly.” Other lists, notes and emails are interspersed throughout, providing more insight into the characters and background for the story. Most poignant is the relationship revealed between Bud and his father. That Laurie and Bud will solve the puzzle is a given. The real thrill is how the characters begin to discover and determine their own futures as they go through the process.
A sure hit. (Mystery. 8-12)