Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

9780544238336_165lresWhen Edmund Lonnrot and his dad go out for ice cream, Edmund knows his dad’s about to break some bad news. It’s bad alright—bad enough to ruin a whole school year, but the news is quickly eclipsed by the assault Edmund and his dad witness in a nearby alley. Before Edmund knows it, his peaceful dad has broken up the fight (even peaceful people are formidable if they’re massive in size), and they’re headed to the police station as witnesses. There, Edmund’s photographic memory is quickly noticed, and he’s put to work to help stop a gang of art thieves. If he plays his cards right, Edmund’s new connection with the police might just save his whole year, that is, if it doesn’t get him killed.

A photographic memory, great drawing skills, a best friend who’s a genius, there’s a lot to admire about Edmund Lonnrot, codename Eddie Red. He lives the life of a spy when he goes undercover to catch a gang of art thieves, but by day he’s still an ordinary sixth grader. This fun mystery will appeal to adventure-seeking middle grade readers. The story moves at a rapid pace, keeping even reluctant readers engaged. And for kids who like to read more than one book about the same characters, the second Eddie Red book is due out in spring 2015.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Harper Collins, 2005.

Ginny Blackstone’s on a secret mission of her aunt’s devising. In contrast to Ginny’s rather ordinary mom, Ginny’s aunt is artistic, the one who sometimes leads her bohemian artist’s life in New York and sometimes disappears for long stretches of time. Now Ginny’s been challenged to leave her own comfortable New Jersey life and follow her aunt’s directions in a crazy chase across Europe. She doesn’t know how much money she’s got or even what her next task will be, and the kicker is she’s got to cut herself off from home and friends if she’s going to follow her aunt’s rules. As she travels, Ginny learns a lot about her mysterious aunt and even more about herself.

It seems to me Ginny’s story is every 17-year-old’s fantasy and nightmare rolled into one. Ginny doesn’t feel ready for the adventure that’s being foisted upon her, but who could turn down the mystery–not to mention the all expenses paid trip to Europe? But with the excitement comes the challenge of traveling alone, managing Aunt Peg’s crazy tasks, and muddling through when things don’t go as planned.

Ginny is a delightful character. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing her journey and wished I could meet Aunt Peg and the people she’d touched. This is a great summer read that left me wanting to pack my bags and hop a plane with nothing more than a few little blue envelopes to show me the way.

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen

Random House, August 26, 2014

cover40859-smallGabriel Finley’s life has a big hole in it – the hole left by his father, who went missing  three years ago. Gabriel and his father shared riddles and jokes and a whole lot of love, and then one day Gabriel’s father was simply gone. Though Gabriel loves his aunt, who’s raising him, he’s determined to find his father, even if it means journeying to the fabled city of Aviopolis, which lies directly under Gabriel’s hometown of Brooklyn. But Gabriel can’t do it alone. It’ll take a bunch of friends, some special powers, a lot of clever thinking, and even a few enemies to mount the toughest rescue operation Gabriel could ever imagine.

Many types of middle grade readers will love this book. Animal lovers will be thrilled at the idea of bonding – and flying with – a raven. The riddlers and lovers of word play will enjoy trying to beat Gabriel and his friends to the answers of the many riddles and puns scattered throughout the text. And the adventure seekers? The adventure is first rate, a true hero’s quest with a well drawn parallel world and testing and growth of Gabriel and all of the friends in his group.

Though I was drawn in by the fantasy and word play elements of this story, I especially appreciated Gabriel and the characters Hagen has drawn. I grew very fond of them all. None of these kids would be considered the popular kids at school, and yet they are admirable. We see their many strengths and gain insight into their vulnerabilities. They’re real kids, they make mistakes, deal with reasonable and unreasonable parental expectations, and learn to see beyond facades and trust one another. This would be a great read-aloud at home or in a classroom because the riddles and the depth of the characters provide much fodder for discussion. On the other hand, readers might not be able to wait for the slower pace of daily read-aloud sessions because they’ll be wrapped up in the adventure.

I read this book as an electronic arc courtesy of Random House Children’s Books (Schwartz & Wade) and NetGalley.


Summer Reading Update

I thought you might like an update on my summer reading. As expected, my list has changed and and grown as the summer progresses. I’ve got a widget at the bottom of the page to note progress, but I’ve moved the list to a post for folks who read through email.

(Also for email readers, a couple of posts I was setting up to publish later got sent out by accident. I’ve deleted them from the blog, but you’ll see them in your email again in the coming weeks. Technical difficulties, sorry!)

Spellbound ~Rachel Hawkins
School Spirits ~ Rachel Hawkins
Smoke ~ Ellen Hopkins
Under the Egg ~ Laura Marx Fitzgerald
The Thickety ~J. A. White
Something Strange and Deadly ~ Susan Dennard
Women Heroes of WWI ~ Kathryn J. Atwood
Speak ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
The Tartan Magic Series: The Wizard’s Map, The Pictish Child, The Bagpiper’s Ghost ~ Jane Yolen
The Fourteenth Goldfish ~ Jennifer L. Holm
13 Little Blue Envelopes ~ Maureen Johnson
The Night Gardener ~ Jonathan Auxier

How’s your summer reading coming?