In Kehret’s neatly plotted suspense story, Emmy Rushford, a valiant sixth-grade girl, stumbles onto a burglar’s lair while helping a youngster get food for herself and her hungry family.
Tenderhearted Emmy, whose mother is a judge for a local department store’s essay contest, stumbles across an entry from Sophie, a fifth-grade girl whose family is temporarily too poor to buy food. Emmy decides to make Sophie’s family her school community-service project, even though her mother has explicitly told her that the contest entries are confidential and that she could lose her job if it’s discovered that she has disclosed any information. To protect her mother, who, like Emmy, is not given much in the way of character complexity, Emmy makes an understandable kid’s judgment: She decides not to tell her mother what she’s up to. After a series of plausible plot twists, the situation spins out of control, and Emmy finds herself matching wits with a nasty thief, one who isn’t above a spot of kidnapping. How Emmy keeps her wits and uses her smarts as the situation escalates is the main pleasure in this suspenseful yet not too scary page-turner for middle-grade readers. Some oddball classmates add touches of humor, though a lightly sketched subplot about Emmy’s weight loss seems to belong in another tale entirely.
A diverting, fast-paced thriller aimed at girls. (Mystery. 8-12)