Smashie McPerter has made her distaste for Patches, Room 11’s new class hamster, abundantly clear—so when he is stolen from his cage, she immediately becomes a prime suspect.
It’s been a particularly terrible day. Room 11 is suffering under the thoroughly incompetent attentions of sub Mr. Carper, a rank narcissist. One of their number has begun booby-trapping objects with glue so when they are picked up, hand and item are fused. Principal Anderson is positively “ILL” at the mayhem. So when Patches goes missing, Smashie and her best friend, Dontel, turn detective; it will take all of Smashie’s wildly intuitive imagination and Dontel’s contemplative smarts to restore peace and hamster to Room 11. Though Smashie’s quirky ebullience can’t be disputed, she is no Ramona/Junie B./Clementine clone. Deeply concerned with justice, she is also sweetly empathetic in the face of her classmates’ distress. The levelheaded Dontel makes a splendid foil. Griffin writes a consistently smart book, layering subplots and red herrings on her central mystery and unapologetically using $20 vocabulary. She carefully provides context clues that will help her young middle-grade audience understand challenging words, introducing Smashie’s discomfort at “the weight of [her classmates’] unjust censure” with the crystalline observation that they “were angrier at her than ever!”
A singularly appealing group of kids populates this nifty mystery for readers ready for a challenge. (Mystery. 7-10)