In this lively and inventive e-book, five canyoneering young friends shift into detective mode when they stumble upon a mystery rooted in Native American history.
Middle schooler Freddie Tanaka is stumped. His creative writing assignment on Southern California’s indigenous Tongva people isn’t going so well. “All my ideas start out OK, but then they spin out of control,” he says: restaurants, lasers, aliens, and Star Wars references keep creeping into his stories. A hike in nearby Cottonwood Canyon and the discovery of a Tongva cave painting provide not only inspiration, but a mystery for Freddie and his friends to solve: who is out to destroy the painting, and why? Freddie and the other Wiley Kids—Millie Reyes, Kyle Baldwin, Sleater Wiley, and Neil Chandler as well as Sleater’s wise old Gramps (and his ’68 Chevy Suburban)—find themselves on a wild ride through history. A bombing attempt, a sympathetic monk and a Buddhist temple, an elderly former child star, a 103-year-old Tongva chief, a deceptive real estate developer, and assorted other shady characters figure into the vivid plot, as do food trucks, music, movie and TV references, and a recipe for homemade tortillas and tacos. A follow-up to The Wiley Kids in the Mystery of the Cucamonga Moon (2012), this imaginative eco-mystery is both about and “by” the Wiley Kids, young sleuths whose individual talents mesh. To get to the bottom of it all, they use 21st-century technology—smartphones, Google, Twitter, robotics—and their brainpower, eclectic interests, and gifts for creative problem-solving. The well-defined first-person narration alternates among the five friends—“pretty much your average suburban middle-schoolers, except for one thing,” Neil says: “We have a habit of finding ourselves knee-deep in mysteries.” Interactive e-book features embedded throughout include videos, original music, maps, photography, and informational and vocabulary links. As the Wiley Kids (and readers) dig deeper into Tongva history, action enters the danger zone, and after the mystery is solved, Freddie finally writes an engaging, well-informed story. He gets an A; so does this book.
A well-written blend of education and entertainment, with relatable young protagonists and a deft 21st-century twist on historical sleuthing.