A fun romp with a feline detective.

THE CROCODILE CAPER

From the Ra the Mighty series , Vol. 3

Ra, the Pharaoh’s self-centered, pampered cat and self-proclaimed Great Detective, is not interested in a new mystery.

Ra and his buddies—Khepri, a scarab beetle, and Miu, the kitchen cat—have already solved two mysteries, but Ra much prefers a lazy life of napping and snacking. He is looking forward to a cruise along the Nile with Pharaoh and his children, but Pharaoh must remain in Thebes, and Ra is charged with the task of accompanying and protecting 12-year-old crown prince Dedi and his 6-year-old sister, Kiya. When they dock at the palace of Lady Satiah, vicious crocodiles surround their barge. Lady Satiah behaves very strangely, and her household is filled with odd characters. She takes the children’s jewelry, separates them from their trusted servants, and brags about her remarkable zoo. When Dedi disappears, Ra and his cohorts find themselves with a multitude of suspects, both human and animal—along with plenty of red herrings, intrigue, danger, and some surprise twists—before the culprits are apprehended and the crime is solved. Horne’s elongated, exaggerated black-and-white illustrations perfectly capture the setting and characters’ idiosyncrasies. The animal leads engage in delightful, often hilarious repartee, speaking in modern syntax easily understood by young readers. While keeping the action moving briskly, Greenfield seamlessly provides information about the mores and culture of ancient Egypt.

A fun romp with a feline detective. (glossary of names, author’s note) (Mystery. 7-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4649-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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