Niebruegge’s (The Zonderling, 2015, etc.) children’s novel tells a tale of buried treasure, forbidden history, and youthful mischief.
Becky Dulles has just received the worst news of her life: Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary School is going to close due to budget cuts, which means she’ll be transferred to a totally new school! Even worse, she and her friends, known as the Sherlock Pines Gang, will almost certainly be separated as a result. And there’s another problem that needs immediate attention: It turns out that everyone’s permanent records will be handed over to the new schools, making it impossible for the Gang to hide anything they’ve done in the past that’s “kinda, sorta, maybe naughty.” They hatch a plan steal their permanent records, but avoiding the watchful eye of their principal, Mrs. Parish, is no easy feat. As the friends work together to pilfer the documents, they unexpectedly stumble upon a treasure map that holds a dark secret about the school’s past. Could it be the real reason behind its closure? The Gang set out on a new mission to find the treasure and uncover the controversial mystery. The prose style has a youthful tone throughout, as the author captures the often vivid imaginations of adolescents: “we completed the next step of the mission—memorizing a bunch of top secret code names to use during Operation Parish Stinks.” Becky and her friends are instantly lovable, and it’s hard not to laugh out loud at their antics, as the dialogue is chock-full of witty jokes and sarcasm: “A riot nearly broke out last year when everyone discovered that most of the pizzas were covered in vegetables. Vegetables!” As the plot zips along, the story occasionally pauses to reflect on historical events, lending the lively, spirited narrative a refreshing bit of grown-up flair.
A bubbly, surprising caper that will undoubtedly entertain young readers.