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.

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.

 

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Dial; March 18, 2014.

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Theo’s grandfather’s death in a street accident is completely unexpected, and his last words to her are mysterious. “There’s …a letter…And a treasure,” he said. His words propel thirteen-year-old Theo into a mystery that shows there was more to her grandfather than she ever imagined. Theo finds an old painting in his studio, and she thinks she know who painted it. It’s bad news though, because Jack wasn’t anywhere rich enough to afford such an old painting. There’s worse news, too; Theo’s grandfather was a museum guard, and a painting has just been found missing from the vaults. In order to solve the mystery and save both her grandfather’s house and reputation, Theo must enlist her smarts, her resourcefulness, and an unlikely pack of new-found friends.

Under the Egg is a cracking good mystery. The story engages the reader in its twists and turns. Even more engaging than the twists of the story is Under the Egg’s main character, Theo. She’s got a tough life that’s become much tougher with her grandfather’s death, but rather than feeling sorry for herself, she soldiers on and works to find a solution. And though Theo is the most fully drawn of the characters, all of the characters ring true. And they all have their surprising sides, some heartwarming and others sinister.

Personally, I have always loved books that open up some part of the world to me. This book offered new insights into the world of art museums and auction houses. It also offered fascinating glimpses into certain aspects of World War II. I expect that Under the Egg may expose its readers to a new interest. Fitzgerald is ready to help with that, too. Her web page includes loads of information and source links to help interested readers delve further into the art and history referred to in the book.

This is Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s debut novel for middle grade readers. I had to double check that because it’s so accomplished. According to her web page it’s true. I’m so sorry that Under the Egg only came out this March because I’m already waiting impatiently for Fitzgerald’s next novel.

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading 2014
This year school summer vacation started on the actual first day of summer. Massachusetts schools start and end later than the schools in much of the country. This has been a week of adjustment and making plans. For me there’s still the day job, and I haven’t yet had time to settle into a summer routine. I most definitely have a summer plan, however, and as you might guess it includes lots of reading!

I thought it would be fun to share my reading list with you. Pictured above is the stack of the fiction and nonfiction I’m planning on delving into this summer. It’s a mix of adult, middle grade, and young adult books. Right now there’s no adult fiction on it, but I’ve been saving Just One Evil Act, the newest Lynley mystery by Elizabeth George, for vacation.

What are you reading? Leave a comment with a list or a link if you’d like to share your summer reading plans. I’d love to know what made your list!

In the Stack (top to bottom):
Smoke by Ellen Hopkins
The Thickety by J. A. White
Stitches by Anne Lamott
Views from a Window Seat by Jeannine Atkins
The Bagpiper’s Ghost by Jane Yolen
Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler
Women Heroes of World War I by Kathryn J. Atwood
Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
Cooked by Michael Pollan
Cooking with Fire by Paula Marcoux

On the Kindle:
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by Andy Smithson

On Library Request but not yet arrived:
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.

Phew, We’ll see how I do. Happy Summer!