Third-grade sleuths Smashie McPerter and Dontel Marquise are back.
Having found classroom pet Patches in Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 (2015), the best friends step up again when a classmate’s delicious-smelling “lengthening and molding” hair goop goes missing, threatening the success of the Third-Grade Hair Extravaganza and Musicale. Who could be taking the few precious jars of Herr Goop? Smashie, a white girl who tends to get carried away, and Dontel, a black boy who tends not to, consider motive and opportunity and work to solve the mystery even as the third-graders practice and they themselves choreograph go-go dances to be staged between each act. Griffin concocts a baroque plot involving a secret code credibly based on third-grade math and tells it with SAT–level vocabulary. She contextualizes that vocabulary carefully, sequencing sentences to prepare readers for it. Kids who understand how hard it is for Smashie and Dontel “to join a line of children who were all mad at them” will see how the “frostiness” might be “palpable.” Even if Smashie and her pals don’t talk like 8-year-olds, though, they behave like them, getting carried away with endearing earnestness. Griffin also subtly attacks stereotypes with her multiethnic group of hugely likable kids. Dontel’s dad is a dentist, and a Latina student’s mom is a patent attorney—a fact that also figures into the plot.
Readers will be hoping for an equally savvy Book 3. (Mystery. 7-10)