Tag: mysteries

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

the-harlem-charade-by-natasha-tarpley

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (InfoSoup)

Released January 31, 2017.

Three children in Harlem set out to solve a mystery. Jin, who has grown up in her adopted grandparents bodega, longs for some adventure to spice up her days. Alex is a girl who won’t talk about her family or her circumstances. She spends her days doing good deeds and working to feed those less fortunate. Elvin isn’t from Harlem, but has been sent there to stay with his grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandfather was attacked and is now hospitalized. The three start to investigate what happened to him and along the way discover a mystery of the art scene in Harlem and the dangers of developers to the small businesses that make Harlem so special. Along the way, the three discover real friendship, learn about their community and make a personal difference themselves.

Tarpley’s writing offers just enough background to inform and keeps it brief enough that the pace never slows. She handles the pacing deftly throughout the novel, allowing just enough time to catch your breath before the speed picks up again. The setting of Harlem is brought fully to life, both today’s Harlem and the Harlem of the 1960s. The setting is vital to the story and readers get to fully explore the sights, sounds and vibrancy of this neighborhood.

Tarpley has cast her book with many diverse characters and I’m very pleased to see them shown on the cover. The three main characters are all individual and unique, bringing their own skills and knowledge to the quest to solve the mystery. I appreciated that they didn’t always get along and that their viewpoints were different enough to create issues that were addressed in the story. The villains of the story are also wonderfully evil, adding a great deal of satisfaction as their roles are made clear.

An incredible debut novel that offers a winning diverse cast and a rich look at Harlem. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

Useless Bay by M. J. Beaufrand

useless-bay-by-mj-beaufrand

Useless Bay by M. J. Beaufrand (InfoSoup)

When a boy goes missing on Whidbey Island, it’s expected that he’s hiding out at the Gray’s house. But Grant isn’t there. Pixie is one of the Gray quintuplets, large kids who seem to have special talents. When Pixie heads out with her scent dog, the best in the state, to find Grant, she discovers something else instead – the body of his mother. Henry, Grant’s half brother, is also part of the search. He knows the attention and problems that come with living in a very wealthy family. His family has staff that travel with them, and it could have been any of them who took Grant and killed his mother. Through the ensuing search, secrets are exposed and powers are discovered in this teen book filled with magical realism.

 

This book is great fun to read. One never quite knows when something mythical and amazing is going to suddenly happen. Those are mixed in with more mundane happenings like murder and kidnapping to create quite the setting for mayhem. Still, there is a feeling of truth through it all, of teens rising up through difficulty to heroism. There is a sense of fate and of purpose too, of destiny combined with the wonder of magic and myth.

The writing is strong and direct. It is haunted with death and pays homage to the damage of abuse and the strength of family. This book is not simple or easy, it is strung with danger and traps. The entire feel of suspense and the claustrophobic island setting combine to create a feeling of doom laced beautifully with hope and love.

A teen novel that is a compelling and vastly enjoyable read, this is a winner. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.

Who Broke the Teapot? by Bill Slavin

who-broke-the-teapot-by-bill-slavin

Who Broke the Teapot? by Bill Slavin (InfoSoup)

Thanks to Fuse #8 for bringing this one to my attention!

Mom is furious when she discovers the teapot broken on the floor. Who could have broken it? Each family member denies it being them. It wasn’t Sister who is busy eating just like Bowser the dog. It wasn’t Kitty who is so tangled in her wool that she can barely move. It wasn’t Brother who is stuck up on the fan by his overalls. It wasn’t Dad who is still reading the newspaper in his underwear. So who could it have been? Luckily, readers get to watch it all happen when time is rolled back to five minutes earlier. But even then, will they know exactly who broke the teapot?

Slavin has written a book that gallops along. It has a wonderfully brisk pace that suits the high emotions of the book perfectly. There is rhythm and rhyme aplenty, adding to the rollicking feel of the title. The text is filled with dialogue as well, creating a book that is a gleeful readaloud, one that almost reads itself and will have young listeners entirely entranced. Just leave enough time to potentially read it more than once!

Slavin’s illustrations are a strong mix of cartoon characters against textural backgrounds that add real depth. There are other elements with texture like Kitty’s string as well. As the action really gets going, Slavin plays with the colors of the background, revving them up to oranges from the greens and blues. Sounds words are also added, creating a comic book zaniness.

Grab this one and use it in your next story time. Giggles and guffaws are guaranteed! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Sandwich Thief by André Marois

The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marois

The Sandwich Thief by André Marois, illustrated by Patrick Doyon (InfoSoup)

Marin loves the sandwiches his foodie parents send in his school lunches. Then one Monday at lunch, his sandwich is gone. Stolen! And it was his favorite: ham, cheddar and kale. Now Marin must figure out who stole his sandwich. He has a list of suspects, mostly other children in his class. But soon his list of suspects extends to include teachers and even the principal. As the days go on, his sandwiches continue to be stolen and the situation is becoming dire. It is up to Marin to find a way to solve the case with the help of a food (and chemistry) expert.

The winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for French Language, this Canadian import is the first in a series. The entire book is written from Marin’s point of view and is not tidied up to be particularly politically correct. The list of student suspects is subject to this and is rather unfortunate with someone who loves to eat being referred to solely as “big” and a girl in poverty being shown no empathy only suspicion. But those are smaller points in a book that is a huge amount of fun and my hope is that the further books in the series will remedy those missteps.

The format is a mix of graphic novel and regular novel, making it imminently readable for elementary-aged students. The humor is broad and funny as is the final solution to the mystery which is entirely satisfying and has all of the clues clicking nicely into place for the reader. There is a sense of hipness around the book, as it has a unique style that is immensely appealing in its quirkiness.

A strong new series for young readers, get this into the hands of fans of graphic novels who may just love a fast-moving novel with lots of graphics for a change. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

When there is an explosion on Mount Kazoo someone must investigate. So King Cornelius who is quite vain and rather scattered and his magic-wielding daughter, Bing, set off with the royal inventor Torq to see what has happened. They take Torq’s latest invention the “gonkless carriage” to get there. As they discover a deserted village at the top of the mountain, the three realize that something much bigger than a natural phenomenon is going on. As they solve the mystery of the explosion, it will take all of their scientific and magic know-how to battle a villainous wizard who is risking the future of the entire kingdom.

This graphic novel has a zany appeal. It is filled with lots of action, plenty of one-liner jokes and three very appealing main characters. From the clueless king with his pride on full display to the two plucky companions, they all have lots of personality to move the story forward. The tension between magic and science also adds energy to the storyline of the book, creating a book where both wizard fans and science fans will find happiness.

The art casts all of the characters as rabbits with their ears high alongside hats and crowns. The art has a cartoon style with subtle coloring that makes the entire world rich with detail. The art and story work well together with the dialogue moving the story along nicely. Pacing is also done well with a rip-roaring and wild pace that will appeal to young readers.

Science, magic and mystery all in one graphic novel! Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer

The Sword in the Stove by Frank W Dormer

The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer (InfoSoup)

Two knights can’t find their other companion, Harold, but begin to find odd things in their stove. First it’s a sword, though one knight insists that that sword could have been put there by pirates. Then it’s a shield, which could have been put there by vikings but also might be Harold’s. When they discover Harold’s helmet in the stove as well, they really start to worry. Finally the mystery of Harold and the stove is solved, though not happily for our rather daft knights.

I must admit that I’m a fan of dark picture books. Add in wild slapstick humor that can be read aloud like Monty Python and you have my full attention and appreciation. This book merrily combines that sort of humor with a dark ending that will appeal to many children. The ending too may be dark but is also just as funny as the rest of the book, so it should not cause nightmares or problems for children. The language throughout the book is glorious with “rapscallion” and “howling aardvarks” and “gribnif” dancing across the page. Told entirely in dialogue, this picture book is great to read aloud with no pause in the action or the mystery so even squirmy audiences will appreciate this one.

Dormer’s art plays along with the slapstick feel as the two knights try to solve the mystery. The watercolor illustrations pop on the solid backgrounds, showing the imagination of the knights as well as their own dynamic with one another as one is certain that Harold left items in the stove and the other dreams up wild solutions.

Screamingly funny, this picture book would be ideal to share with a group of elementary school students who will not be worried about the dark twist and will adore the humor. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (InfoSoup)

Faith appears to be a very somber and dutiful daughter to her father who is a clergyman and a natural history scholar. When their family is forced to leave Kent for a small island, Faith discovers that her father’s entire body of work has been discovered to be based on lies and that their family is disgraced. Faith desperately wants to be seen as more than a burden to her father, so she helps him move a valuable specimen to a secret sea cave reached by boat. Soon afterwards, her father dies and people suspect it was suicide. Only Faith thinks that it could have been murder and may have something to do with the tree they moved to the cave. It’s a tree that only bears fruit when a lie is whispered to it and grows in strength as the lie grows too. Now Faith is the only one who knows where the tree is and that may be enough to have her become a target too.

Hardinge’s writing is breathtaking. She uses unique and unusual metaphors that are compelling and vivid, further building her world of lies, distrust and isolation. At times the writing is so beautiful that it stops the reader so that it can be reread again. At other times, the pace rockets forward, the reader clinging on and whooping along. Hardinge has created in the tree itself a beautiful metaphor for lies, the fruit they create and the power they can bring.

Throughout the strictness of Victorian society is at play, creating a world of rules that must not be altered or broken. In that world is Faith who must figure out how to solve a murder that only she believes has happened in a society where she is to be quiet and docile lest her reputation be forever ruined. As the book continues, readers will be carefully shown their own sexism about female characters to great effect. This is feminist writing at its finest.

Stunning writing, a compelling young heroine and a world filled with rules and lies, this is one amazing read that mixes fantasy, historical fiction and a big dash of horror. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.