Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Vanishing Coin

Image result for the vanishing coin eganThe Vanishing Coin
Kate Egan
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2014  142 pages
Grades 2-5
Realistic Fiction with a touch of Magic
The Magic Shop series #1

Mike is trying so hard to make fourth grade a better year. He struggles with sitting still in class and paying attention, to the point that school is a lot of work. Even while putting forth his best efforts, Mike manages to get into trouble and get off on a bad foot with his new teacher. Making matters worse, Mike must spend every day after school with his new neighbor Nora, who although is nice and they have a lot in common, is a girl and always is perfect. Jackson, the class bully loves to push Mike's buttons and help him to find trouble, gleefully enjoying the show. Since Mike is not allowed to play soccer with his friends until he gets his grades up, he and Nora have time on their hands. They discover a magic shop in town that they never noticed before. The owner, Mr. Zerlin, asks Mike a riddle, which he solves and is awarded with the secret behind a magic trick. Mike uses the trick to fool Jackson and finds that he has both an aptitude and passion for magic. After Mr. Zerlin passes a book of magic onto Mike he practices non-stop and learns a few more tricks, eventually letting Nora in on the secrets as his accomplice. Mike has finally found something he is good at and enjoys. When Mike and Nora are stranded at the soccer field at the end of the story, his pockets are suddenly filled with quarters for the pay phone right after Mr. Zerlin passes by. Is Mr. Zerlin really magical? We will find out as the series continues.

The Magic Shop series is a fun choice for readers new to chapter books that want something a little different. Perfect for reluctant readers, the font is large, the chapters are short, and cartoon-like illustrations, sometimes full-page, are plentiful and can be found in every chapter. Kids love magic and this book will draw readers right in. Egan worked with a professional magician, Mike Lane, in getting the magic just right. Three tricks are included in the book, so budding magicians can learn the secrets behind the magic. The tricks are very clearly displayed and illustrated and are easy enough for kids to learn and require minimal supplies and nothing to purchase. Many kids will relate to Mike's struggles with sitting still. He seems to suffer from ADHD and it is surprising that both the school and his parents, who appear to be college professors, aren't getting him help. He wants to sit still and do well in school, but physically can't. Hopefully magic will prove to be the outlet Mike needs to channel his energy. Adding Nora as a character will make the book accessible to both boys and girls and pretty much everyone who picks it up will enjoy the story. Appealing most naturally to lovers of magic, muggles will love it too. There are four books in this series and they are all currently in print and are popular at my library.

The Land of Forgotten Girls

Image result for land of forgotten girls kellyThe Land of Forgotten Girls
Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow, 2016  304 pages
Grades 3-7
Realistic Fiction

Twelve-year-old Sol and her little sister Ming live in a poor section of town outside of New Orleans with their evil stepmother Vea. Immigrating from the Philippians to the US has not worked out the way Vea imagined and is bitter and nasty and horrible to her two charges as a result. Sol and Ming spend their days wandering around the neighborhood, often with Sol's best friend, Manny. Summer starts off badly. Sol hits a rich girl in the face with a pine cone, resulting in stitches and guilt and Ming displeases Vea to the point of having her favorite stuffed animal destroyed and discarded by her guardian. To comfort her sister Sol shares stories she learned from her deceased mother about a legendary aunt who has many wonderful adventures. Ming becomes convinced that the aunt is coming to take both of the girls away. Sol must rely on her vivid imagination to offer Ming hope when she is disappointed in the failed rescue. Meanwhile a run-in with a notoriously mean neighborhood junk yard man brings unexpected results, as does an encounter with an elderly neighbor. Sol continues to live in her imaginary world for survival and to cope in what feels like a hopeless situation. She has learned to escape into her imagination ever since the death of a second sister, of which she feels responsible, the death of her mother, and immigrating to a scary new place. Confessing and apologizing to the pine cone crime brings yet another new friend and even though the sister's lives do not significantly change, they, at least, have friends on their side and life is a bit more manageable by book's end.

This is Kelly's sophomore attempt after the critically acclaimed Blackbird Fly, another heartfelt realistic fiction selection for middle grades. The Land of Forgotten Girls is a solidly written story with character development and ethical dilemmas. This character driven novel features a diverse and interesting cast of characters that practically jump off the page. The Louisiana setting is integral to the story and the reader can practically feel the heat and humidity. This is a quiet book, yet not boring. The stepmother is truly evil, like a fairy tale character, but as the story moves along we see layers of her and realize that she may have been good once and that life has worn her down. One must wonder while reading this book where is child protective services, as these girls are being clearly mentally and somewhat physically abused? I think Sol's main motivation is to keep her and Ming together, so it is better to try to survive living with Vea than to chance the foster-care system. I was hoping that the legendary aunt would actually show up and whisk the girls away, but life is not a fairy tale. The aunt never arrives and Sol is left to pick up the pieces, but as she begins to pick them up unexpected help arrives from caring adults. There are no easy answers. The girls remain living in poverty with Vea, yet with their new friends there is hope and support and a general feeling that everything will be okay. A glimpse into the struggles of immigrants and other Americans living on the fringe that may lead our privileged children to be aware and empathize with those less fortunate.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Image result for squirrel girl haleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Shannon & Dean Hale
Marvel, 2017  324 pages
Grades 4-8
Adventure

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moves from California to suburbia New Jersey where she must start at a new school. This would be tricky for any kid, but is that much worse for one who sports a tail. Doreen is part girl/part squirrel. She can speak squirrel language, climb trees lickety-split, lift many times her own weight, and is as speedy as her furry cousins. Once at the school school things do not go well. The popular crowd completely shuns Doreen and the rest of the school follows their lead. Luckily Doreen finds another girl eating alone. Ana Sophia is deaf and a loner. At first she resists Doreen's friendship, but then gives into her friendly unflappable nature. Other friendships develop from within the squirrel community,  specifically one special squirrel named Tippy Toe who becomes Doreen's partner. Other support emerges from the town's teen "larpers" as well as a clique of graffiti artists. Meanwhile, random acts of vandalism are sweeping through the small town. After an investigation, with some reluctant help from other Avengers, with whom she texts using a phone Tippy Toe helped her "procure", a real villain is pin-pointed named the Micro-Manager. He and his team of robots are set to destroy the town and publicly defeat Squirrel Girl. The villain lures her in battle by kidnapping some of her squirrel friends, as well as a baby that she sits for. Squirrel Girl is unable to defeat Micro-Manager on her own. She will need both her squirrel friends, as well as her new human ones, to save the day.

Based on the Marvel character Squirrel Girl, the Hales have written a novel for young people tracing Doreen's early days as a super hero. Squirrel Girl has been around since the 1990's as a peripheral character in the Marvel Universe, usually barraging Iron Man to take her on as a partner. Her latest incantation, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, penned by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, features Doreen in college in New York City, while fighting crime and saving the day between classes. The Hales take the story backwards to Doreen's adolescence when she first meets Tippy Toe and comes into her own as a crime fighter. I was surprised. I thought the book would be a graphic hybrid, but it contains no illustrations. It is straight text and is substantial. Obviously appealing to fans of superheros, the plot moves quickly and focuses on action over character development. A mystery is added as the reader tries to figure out who the identity of the Micro-Manager. Reflecting the mood of the comics, This novel contains a lot of humor. Footnotes at the bottom of the page offer Doreen's commentary, also a carry-over from the comic original. Tippty Toes gets to narrate several chapters, adding more humor and a different dimension to the story. Squirrel Girl has supportive parents, good friends, and lives in a lifestyle similar to the average American kid. making her abilities seem that much more believable and relatable. I love the New Jersey setting. For such a densely populated state containing a significant population of young readers, not many books are set here. My readers will love this setting and relate to the story all the more. Both boys and girls will love it and it will be an easy sell to graphic novel readers, who may not realize that they just finished a book with no pictures until they close the back cover. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Hypnotists

Image result for korman hypnotistsThe Hypnotists
Gordon Korman
Scholastic, 2013 232 pages
Grades 4-7
Adventure
Hypnotists series #1

Strange things are happening to Jax. Suddenly he is turning into a basketball star, teachers let him do whatever he wants, the prettiest girl in school notices him, and even professional adults start acting strangely around him. Could this have anything to do with his unusual color-changing eyes? Finally, Jax is recruited by the Sentia Institute supposedly for his keen intellect, but eventually it is revealed that Jax is a natural hypnotist, a trait handed down by generations from both sides of his family tree. The institute is run by the famous Dr. Mako, who is extremely respected by all of New York City, where both Jax and the institute call home. Jax reports to the institute every day after school and learns to hone his skills, all while trying to keep his school-life in tact. His best friend, Tommy, is color blind and immune to Jax's abilities, which makes him an honest friend. Jax meets a strange old man named Braintree, who is the leader of the Sandman's Guild, a group of independent hypnos who are trying to resist using their abilities. Braintree warns Jax that Mako is evil and out for world dominance, but Jax doesn't believe him. After Mako forces Jax to preform a trance that can remotely hypnotize people through their computers in order to bring a candidate to office whom he controls, Jax knows that Braintree was right. How can he keep his parents, who have no hypnotic abilities, safe, all while suffering the consequences of all of the remote hypnotic blow-back and keep America safe from the clutches of Dr. Mako? Jax will need help and lots of it to defeat this powerful megalomaniac, all while keeping those he loves, as well as himself, out of harm's way.

With over eighty books for young people under his belt, Gordon Korman knows how to write for children. His books are always catchy, exciting, and have a touch of humor. The hypnotists series is a crowd pleaser and will appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys. Is the plot plausible? Not really. Are the characters developed? Not so much. But what we do have is a rollicking story with a great concept and a classic good-vs-evil conflict. Every-kid Jax has a natural power that many young people would love to have and it gives him power over both fellow kids and adults. He has to decide what to do with this power, learn to control it, and apply it to fighting evil. Jax bravely takes on the bad guys and gets help when he needs it. Although his parents do not possess the same abilities, they are present, supportive, and intricate to the story. Korman raises some subtle questions about the power of the media, political corruption, and basic morality, yet never gets preachy. Readers will be led to think about what they would do in similar circumstances, all while fantasizing about what it would be like to have the ability of hypnotism. The chapters are relatively short, the book is nicely designed, and font changes indicate when folks are getting hypnotize, resulting in an attractive package to sell to an unsure customer. The next two titles are already in print, so readers have a place to go once they are finished with this series entry.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Short

Image result for short sloanShort
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial/Penguin, 2017 296 pages
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction/Humor

Julia is not having the best summer. Her beloved dog, Ramon, has just died and her two best friends are away, leaving her to stay home and mope. When her theatrical younger brother decides to audition for a local production of The Wizard of Oz, Julia's mother forces her to audition also. After a rousing performance of "This Land is Your Land" Julia and her brother Randy both score roles as munchkins. Julia is short for her age and is the perfect munchkin size. At the first rehearsal she meet three little people and befriends Olive, who although grown-up is the same size as Julia. Also present at the first rehearsal is Shawn Barr, the elderly yet passionate director who brings expertise and pizzazz to the proceedings. He immediately recognizes Julia's positive attitude and enthusiasm and she finds herself, along with Olive, promoted to featured dancer and winged monkey. Meanwhile an elderly neighbor reveals herself to be a former ballerina and costumer. The neighbor gets involved with Julia's help designing and assembling the costumes on the condition that she, too, can be a flying monkey. We see the play from its humble beginnings to when the final curtain is lowered through Julia's eyes and her comic narration of all of the interesting people and goings-on makes for an entertaining read. Back stage romances, behind the scenes dramas, injuries, and intrigue: none of it escapes Julia's perceptive brain as she discovers a love for the theater, as well as learning many valuable life-lessons.

Holly Goldberg Sloan is truly one of children's literature most eclectic authors. In the past few years she has gone from intense and heartfelt realistic fiction to animal fantasy and now to humor. Whatever Sloan writes is wonderful and she is one of the most capable authors currently producing. Short is much less extreme than her usual realistic fiction. It is about a "normal" girl with a regular family living in a nondescript town that many kids will relate to. What sets Julia apart is her shortness, which frankly doesn't slow her down at all. As a short person and as a former child who was always the shortest girl in my class, possibly the school, I could relate. I just wish I was blessed with her confidence. This character really knows how to make lemonade. I would have been devastated at being cast as a munchkin alongside my younger brother. Hopefully Julia will serve as an inspiration to other short children, as well as kids who suffer from any trait that makes them feel different. The book was tightly written, seeped with important lessons and character growth, but its true value lies in its humor. It is laugh-out-loud funny in certain places and the reader can just imagine the many colorful characters and behind the scenes hijinks as the plot unfolds. There are so many richly drawn characters, but the stand-out is the larger-than-life flamboyant director with the big heart. Even though the main character is a girl, she is not "girlie" and boys will enjoy this story as well. It moves along nicely and would make a great read aloud. This is a book that will give kids a much needed laugh and may even inspire some future thespians. Bravissama!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Metropolitans

Image result for metropolitans goodmanThe Metropolitans
Carol Goodman
Viking/Penguin, 2017  355 pages
Grades 4-8
Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Adventure

Four seemingly unrelated kids find each other in New York City and save the world from the clutches of the Nazi's in this novel featuring spies, art, and Arthurian legend. Its 1941 and World War II is suddenly becoming not just a European war. After recently losing her mother, Madge is unhappily living away from her siblings with a distracted aunt. Walt has escaped the Nazis only to have left his parents behind and be hindered by guilt. Native American, Joe, has escaped an abusive school where he has been forced to forget his Mohawk language and customs, bringing out a rage that both surprises and frightens him. Finally, Japanese Kiku misses her mother, who is back in Japan, and feels conspicuous and mistrusted as America enters the war against her home country and she has suddenly become the enemy. These four young people meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they see a valuable copy of the original King Arthur Tales stolen. The perpetrator is a Nazi spy and the enemy is using this valuable manuscript to send secret coded messages, conveying plans to blow-up New York City. As the kids try to hunt for the coded messages throughout the museum and other areas of the city, they start to develop super-powers, such as the ability to understand all language, super-strength, and the ability to disappear. The abilities correspond with their personal back-stories and become stronger when the young people are together. Are they actually new incarnations of King Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and Morgaine? Myth, history, espionage, and magic all come together to create this whopper of a tale all set under the backdrop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during a pivotal time in our country's past.

This new book, penned by a veteran author of books for teenagers and adults, is being compared to The Mixed Up Files, Night at the Museum, and Chasing Vermeer. It is set at a museum and is adventurous, but is really its own unique story. Set in World War II, it will appeal to fans of historical fiction and is seeped further in this time period than most offerings for young people. Goodman uses the slang of the time and makes many pop culture references; so many that it may make the book a bit unrelatable to today's youth. The fantasy is realistic in nature and feels believable. I love Arthurian legends, so this was a fun element to the book. Kids do not need to be familiar with these legends and reading this story may encourage them to dive into the actual tales. The characters are diverse in both gender and ethnicity, which will welcome a great cross-section of readers. The plot cooks along at a break-neck speed and the action and twists never waver. Sometimes I became a little confused, so I would not recommend this book to reluctant readers. It is what I call "smart-kid fiction" and will be best appreciated by readers who like to really sink their teeth into a book that challenges them and makes them think. I love the New York City setting and, of course, am always happy to see books set in the Met. Hopefully it will encourage readers to visit this great museum after they finish reading the book and will lead them to the magical world of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fish Girl

Image result for fish girl wiesnerFish Girl
David Wiesner & Donna Jo Napoli
Clarion, 2017 186 pages
Grades 3-Up
Graphic Novel

An unnamed aquatic girl lives in a tank at a cheesy boardwalk attraction. The owner of Ocean Wonders is Neptune, god of seas and storms. Everyday folks come in to see the legendary "Fish Girl", trying to catch glimpses of her as she flashes by. Meanwhile, Neptune sells t-shirts and mystery as he drums up business in his failing enterprise. At night after Neptune has Fish Girl retrieve the coins thrown into the tank by the day's patrons he tells her stories about her past and her family, of which she cannot remember. The monotony is broken by a girl named Livia, who slowly becomes the fish girl's first human friend. Livia names her Mira, short for "Miracle" and the two start to trust each other, forming a bond and exchanging presents. Because of this new friendship, Mira begins to gain confidence and question her life and the hold Neptune has over her. She finds the courage to leave the tank, eventually discovering that her tail can turn into legs once she is out of the water. Further discovery reveals that Neptune is not who he says he is and the operation is not as honest as Mira has been led to believe. Finally Mira must make a decision about her future and find the strength to take on Neptune and secure freedom for her self and her aquatic friends, also held prisoner at Ocean Wonders.

It is a natural progression for three-time Caldecott winning Superstar David Wiesner to turn to drawing graphic novels. My only question is: why hasn't he done it sooner? And then when you add veteran fairy tale and folklorist Donna Jo Napoli to the mix, a new graphic novel classical is sure to be born. On its own this is a great story. It has fairy tale elements, while remaining realistic, appealing to the Raina Telgemeier crowd. At its core, Fish Girl is a friendship tale with a main character who must tap into her inner strength, which will appeal to a wide audience. The mermaid element will draw in those fans, of whom are numerous and will eat this book up with a spoon. The illustrations are predictably excellent and help to move the story along, adding to the plot and not simply enhancing. The book is in full color and is a little larger than normal graphic novel size, feeling like half-way between a picture book and a comic book. There are messages here about greed, corruption, the power of friendship, and finding your strength, but the real star is the fairy tale put into a modern context, resulting in a story that is both fresh and original. A sure-fire winner by two experts in the field of children's literature.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On the Edge of Gone

Image result for ON THE EDGE OF GONEOn the Edge of Gone
Corinne Duyvis
Amulet, 2016  456 pages
Grades 7-Up
Science Fiction/Dystopian

Denise is in a panic. A large comet is set to arrive on Earth TODAY destroying the atmosphere and she can't get her drug addicted mother out of the apartment and to their Netherlands's shelter. Denise is autistic and her condition makes the end of the world that much more difficult to process. To make matters worse, her beloved sister is missing and Denise has no idea where she is or if she is safe. Finally, Mom is ready to go and on the way to the shelter they help a former teacher and her wife get to a generation ship, which can take them safely away from the Earth's atmosphere. In order to stay on the ship Denise must prove herself to be useful, but, despite her attempts, once mom gets caught taking forbidden resources from the ship and using drugs, they get kicked off. Denise must find her way back on the ship and try to locate her sister before it leaves the planet Earth. New friends make trying to get on the ship that much more desirable, as does the complete destruction of her flooded country. With people dying in the temporary shelters and no hope in sight, will Denise be able to bring her family together and secure a safe spot for them on the space ship?

Dutch author Duyvis know all about autism: she has been living her whole life with it. Its no wonder that she so accurately portrays Denise's thought processes and struggles. The reader really sees the end of the world through the eyes of some one who finds regular day-to-day life challenging and at time bewildering. I love that the main character of this book is autistic and rises above her comfort zone to to do the right thing and help those that she loves. Further diversity is displayed in the transgender character of the sister, as well as both sisters being bi-racial. It is also interesting that the mother is a drug addict and Denise, although she struggles with deciphering life, often has to be the responsible one in her family. Duyvis sets this dystopian novel in the 2035 as a cautionary tale of what could be. It makes the reader think what would they do if placed in the same situation and to ponder if one human life is more valuable than another. Does Mom deserve a spot on the ship if she is a drug addict? How about Iris if she can't bear children? Most of all, Denise. Does her autism and lack of useful skills mean she is of less value than, for instance, the agricultural expert? All of these questions will occur to the reader and will make this book a great choice for book discussion. My main complaint is that it really is too long. It is dialog heavy and character intensive. The concept and plot are very cool, but could have been conveyed in about half the pages. The book has a clear-cut ending, but I could see sequels if there was a readership. A different take on a popular genre.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

Image result for mother daughter book club frederickThe Mother-Daughter Book Club
Heather Vogel Frederick
Simon & Schuster, 2007 236 pages
Grades 5-7
Realistic Fiction
The Mother-Daughter Book Club series #1

Four sixth-grade girls are dragged unwillingly by their mothers to participate in a mother-daughter book club. Throughout the year they experience highs and lows and grow closer as a group in their small Concord, Massachusetts town, home of Louisa May Alcott, all while reading Little Women. Emma is already a bookworm and aspiring poet. A little pudgy and nerdy she struggles with fitting in. Jess's mother has moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She is left at the family farm with a well-intentioned father, mischievous twin brothers, and various livestock. Tomboy, Cassidy, would rather be playing hockey than attend a book club with her recently widowed, super-model mother. Finally, Megan is attempting to climb the middle school social ladder and finds book club to be extremely embarrassing and detrimental to her aspirations. Her hippy mother wants her to be a scientist or lawyer, but Megan longs to become a fashion designer. Under the backdrop of Alcott's classic story we see the girls grow and mature and friendships and understandings develop. A typical "mean-girl" serves a foil accompanied by an equally obnoxious mother and a cute boy presents a love interest with unexpected results. A happy ending all-around is offered by the author and will allow the reader to sigh contentedly and grab the next installment in the series, which features Anne of Green Gables.


Somehow I never got around to reading this series. I guess, maybe because of the pink cover, I never took these books seriously. But after ten years of girls consistently asking for them, I broke down and read the first one. I was glad I did! The series is sweet and innocent with a literary connection. The problems that the protagonists face are common and realistic to today's youth without being too heavy or dire. Quotes and excerpts from Alcott's life are interwoven in the story with relevance and parallels adding an extra dimension to the book. Readers may be inspired to pick up Little Women, I know it made me want to re-read it. A wonderful friendship story, the girls who seem to have very little in common grow together as friends and learn to support each other. The setting is serene, perfect for the tale, and is an intricate part of the book. The book culminates in a big trip to New York City to visit Jess's mother, where everyone has a Cinderella moment, except Jess. Jess gets her Cinderella moment at the very end, when the girls have their "end-of-the-year" party. The ending is a bit too perfect for me and all the characters basically got what they longed for, which is a bit unrealistic, but young girls will love it. The light romance will also appeal to the readership and remains harmless and at the crush level. A perfect choice for mother and daughter book groups and for all girls who love to dream. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Key Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone

Image result for key hunters moonstoneKey Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone
Eric Luper
Scholastic, 2016  111 pages
Grades 2-4
Mystery/Fantasy
Key Hunters series #1

After their beloved school librarian goes missing Cleo and Evan just can't seem to warm up to her replacement, Ms. Crowley. While tracking Ms. Crowley's strange behavior one day in the library, Evan and Cleo follow her to a mysterious clue, which leads to a deceptive book, which serves as the key to a secret room below the library. Within the secret room are more books and a letter from their favorite missing librarian. She instructs them to find her by exploring the books in the room and searching for a key, which will lead to the next clue. Before the new adventurers know it, they have entered The Case of the Mysterious Moonstone, a mystery straight out of the world of Sherlock Holmes. They must assist rookie detective Artie Baker from the London Police as he investigates the disappearance of a very valuable jewel from the home of Colonel Musgrave. The three detectives get to work following the clues and interviewing suspects, who range from a suspicious butler, to family members, to finally, the cook, who turns out to be none other than Ms. Crowley. Artie, Cleo and Evan do indeed solve the mystery and all seems well. An envelope containing a hidden key sends Cleo and Evan back to the library, where Ms. Crowley awaits. Was it all a dream? Another envelope confirms that it was not and sets the stage for the next mission as a means to an end of locating their favorite librarian.

Key Hunters is a fun new mystery series perfect for children starting chapter books. More mystery than fantasy, each adventure takes the kids into a book with a specific genre--or different place and time, tapping into the magic tree house crowd. Other tales explored include a ghost story, high fantasy involving wizards, a spy story, and an adventure on the Titanic. The author is training children to read mysteries. Many characters are offered, all of whom appear suspicious. Red herrings are offered and adventurous senerios lead the children to finding the clues. It reads a bit like a Scooby Doo story and the accompanying illustrations further project this vibe, which will make the reader comfortable and find the story enjoyable. The final solution to the mystery was not too easy and requires thinking on the part of the reader. It is a delicious moment when you figure out a mystery and this story will be sure to hook readers onto the genre. One full page comic-like illustration is included in every chapter. The margins are wide, the chapters are short, the print is large attracting developing readers and the inclusion of both a boy and girl character will expand the book's readership. By offering an umbrella mystery (the search for the missing librarian) readers will be further encouraged to grab the next volume in the series. A slam dunk for the intended audience.