Book review: The Impossible Crime, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Mike Lowery

Barnett, Mac. The Impossible Crime. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. (Mac B. Kid Spy series). Orchard Books, 2019. $12.99. ISBN 9781338143683. 151 pages. Ages 7-12. P7 Q7

In 1989, on a Saturday, Mac plays an arcade game at the Golden Tee Golfland miniature golf course. He is trying to beat the arcade game Spy Master 2, which has never been beat. When the game is over, he goes outside and a dog delivers a note to him. The note tells him to answer the phone. It is the Queen of England! She gives him a secret mission to protect the crown jewels. When Mac arrives in England, the Queen tells Mac a story from 1671, when Thomas Blood tried to steal the crown jewels. Now a descendant is trying to steal the jewels and Mac’s mission is to stop him. This adventure takes him to Ireland. Will he find out who is trying to steal the Crown Jewels and be able to stop him in time?

The book contains twenty-four short chapters with black line illustrations colored in with yellow and green. The illustrations are of the Queen of England and items from history. This mystery is told from the first-person point of view and often refers to the first book. This New York Times Best Seller is easy to read and one will be engaged quickly. I looked it up, and yes, Golden Tee Golfland is a miniature golf course in California. Throughout the mystery there are random facts about Buckingham Palace, all of which are true facts. This book is the second in the Mac B Kid Spy series, but it can stand alone. In the end, the Queen calls for Mac to solve another mystery, enticing the reader to read the next book.

Verdict: I think children will enjoy this quick easy reading mystery. Not only do readers have to figure out the mystery, they learn about the Queen of England and historical facts at the same time.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth, by Ben and Tonya Mezrich

Mezrich, Ben and Tonya Mezrich. Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth. (Charlie Numbers series, book 3.) Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. 183 pages. ISBN 9781534441002. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

Charlie is on a Cargo ship being chased and heading for freezing water. He has two choices; he can be caught or he can jump into freezing water. The adventure then goes back two weeks to when Charlie and his friends, all Whiz Kids, find a bone while they are on a field trip to the Boston Public Gardens. Stumped by what the object is, they take it to a science professor at Harvard to be identified. This discovery leads to more questions and new friends who are also scientists. The new friends include Janice and Rod. While Janice is sweet and kind, Rod is a bully and mean. They work together to solve the mystery of the “bone” and why it was found in Boston. The cast of friends include a black girl in a wheelchair (Janice), a Japanese boy, two redheaded boys, boys from a wealthy suburb and some from the city, which offer a diversity in characters. The friends use carbon dating, Boston trivia, and science factoids as they seek to figure out the mystery. Fossils and rocks are highlighted in the story and a rock is actually a clue to the origin of how the “bone” arrived at the Boston Public Gardens. While Rod is a bully, as the story develops, Rod’s backstory comes to light and the dynamics between the friends change in a positive direction. This is the third novel In the Charlie Numbers series, but can stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a child interested in fossils, rocks, carbon dating or science, they would enjoy this adventure.

The reader will learn a lot about fossils, Africa, elephant tusk trade and science as they read this mystery. While the book appears to be lighthearted, one will learn a lot. The themes of friendship, giving others a chance and looking beyond the obvious come through strongly in this book. This would be a great read aloud for a teacher or a good book for families to read together.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Last Chance Hotel, by Nicki Thornton

Thornton, Nicki. The Last Chance Hotel. (Seth Seppi Mystery series, book 1). Chicken House, 2019. $18.99. ISBN 9781338323627. 321 pages. Ages 8-14. P7 Q7

Harry Potter meets Clue in this enchanting mystery. Seth, a kitchen boy at the Last Chance Hotel, aspires to be a chef like his dad. Seth’s mom died when he was a baby and his dad left years ago, leaving him an orphan and at the mercy of the Bunn family, who run the hotel. When Dr. Thallonius, a VIP guest, arrives along with an odd group of guests to participate in a secret meeting, strange events start to happen, including Dr. Thallonius being poisoned. With his cat, Nightshade, Seth sleuths around to find out who is responsible for the murder. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will enjoy this novel, full of items such as magic mirrors, paintings and the ability to teleport. The book is not gory and is appropriate for tweens. The author’s descriptive text allows the reader to imagine the events as they unfold. This book is set up for a sequel, The Bad Luck Lighthouse, which is available in paperback. This book was first published in the UK in 2018. The UK cover is different and this version is updated to reflect an American vocabulary.

Verdict: If you have a reader who is eager to read a book similar to Harry Potter, this book fits the bill. Full of magic, mystery, courage and perseverance, this book makes an easy read for youth or for families to read together. I marked it down a little due to the fact that there were many questions not answered, which might be addressed in the next book. It may leave the reader with more questions than answers. That being said, I think the blend of magic and mystery are balanced well.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Lonely Dead, by April Henry

Henry, April.  The Lonely Dead.  Henry Holt & Co, 2019. 228 pages.  $17.99. Ages 13 up.  ISBN 978-1-250-15757-7.  P8/Q8

Adele lives in Portland, Oregon.  She has known since she was 5 years old that she and her mother can talk to and see the dead.  This puts Adele in an awkward situation when she finds the body of a teen girl she knew who was murdered and hidden.  She is now suspected of being the murderer, and she has to figure out Who Dunnit in order to shift the blame.  This mystery has a big element of the supernatural, and has some romance involved as well, so it should appeal to a range of teen readers.

June 2019 review by Ann Goddard.

Book review: The Book Case, by Dave Shelton

Shelton, Dave. The Book Case. (“An Emily Lime Mystery.”) David Fickling/Scholastic, 2019. 358 pages. $17.99. ISBN 9781338323795. Ages 10-14. P7Q7

After Daphne Blakeway is kicked out of her latest boarding school, she and her parents are relieved to receive a letter with full scholarship from St. Rita’s School for Spirited Girls as well as the offer of a job interview as the assistant assistant librarian.   However, when she arrives at St. Rita’s, the school is falling to pieces—a hole in the driveway from a chemistry experiment gone awry, rotted bannisters and stairways, an empty library, missing funds—and the students are becoming expert forgers, picklocks and houligans.  Daphne plunges headlong into a mystery involving a stolen book, a missing student, nighttime raids on the pantry, jewel robbery, and general mayhem.  Assistant librarian Emily Lime and her assistant librarian, George, steer Daphne through most of the school’s pitfalls and all work on solving the mystery.

Verdict:  The Book Case falls into the venerable category of humorous boarding school stories and carries a respectable mystery besides.  It is the first in at least a two book series featuring assistant librarian Emily Lime (there is no actual school librarian), but the brunt of this story focuses on Daphne.    The story is pleasant, though a bit uneven, and the author’s illustrations add to the humor.  Recommended as an additional purchase for middle school and public libraries.

September 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Claire Frossard, translated by MaryChris Bradley

Lallemand, Orianne. The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask. Illus. by Claire Frossard. Trans. by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2019. Unp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-7338-67402-2. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Quirky bold illustrations begin with a black wolf sporting a huge, long nose who grumpily goes to a museum with his friends because he wants to be with Wolfette. The narrative proceeds with punny artists’ names, beginning with Leonardo da Wolfinci, and Wolf wanders on by himself. A missing tribal mask traumatizes the little guard, Barnabas, and Wolf sets out to uncover the perpetrator, finding more clues and pieces of the museum. The gentle story finishes with the discovery that Wolf’s friend, Miss Yeti, had taken the mask because it looked like her father. All ends happily when Miss Yeti buys a replica of the mask in the gift shop and Wolf falls in love with a painting that looks like his forest.

Verdict: Twists and turns take the reader through a museum, a mystery, and a relationship that ends in pure joy.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Case from Outer Space, by James Preller, illustrated by R.W. Alley

Preller, James. The Case From Outer Space. (A Jigsaw Jones Mystery). Illustrated by R. W. Alley. Fiewel and Friends, 2017. $15.99 ISBN 978-1-250-11018. 85 pages.  Ages 6-8 . P7/Q8

Another installment in the Jigsaw Jones Mystery Series, The Case from Outer Space is a fun book for kids just beginning to read chapter books. Jigsaw, a 2nd grader and detective, is given a case by his friends who are convinced that aliens are an imminent threat. With the help of his friends and some detective skills he is able to solve the case and learn a little on the way.

Verdict: This short and funny book is one that would be great for a reluctant reader. It is broken up by some illustrations which add to the books charm. It is a popular series as well.

November 2018 review by Michelle Cottrell.