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From the Fish Finelli series, volume 1

by E.S. Farber ; illustrated by Jason Beene

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0820-9
Publisher: Chronicle

Combine the curiosity of three boys, the discovery of a map of an island and the legend of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure and what do you get? A funny gem of a middle-grade mystery, the first of a series.

Fish Finelli (his real name is Norman, but the first word he said was “Fish”) and his pals T.J., who’s constantly eating all kinds of candy, and Roger, who’s always equipped with a pun, set out to find the rumored Captain Kidd’s long-lost loot. Obstacles galore—piles of goose poop, a suspicious librarian and a bet with a bully, among others—guarantee comic scenes. The dialogue is contemporary, and the chapter headings add clever flair: “The Librarian’s Got the Booty?!” Small sidebars scattered throughout provide context and background facts, informing readers just who was Nikola Tesla (the namesake of Fish’s goldfish) and the history of old tech like walkie-talkies and new(ish) tech like microwave ovens. The boys enjoy a remarkable degree of freedom, tempered with prominent but natural references to PFDs and the like, giving readers some jolly, vicarious thrills.

It’s rollicking fun and a welcome new series, a great boys’ counterpart to such stellar girls’ series as Ivy + Bean. (Mystery. 8-12)