Agatha: Girl of Mystery

Exotic destination? √
High-tec gadgets? √
Stolen artifact? √
Not-too-scary villians? √
Fearless kid detectives? √ √

Agatha: Girl of Mystery is a great new adventure series for the early chapter book crowd. In the first book the reader joins Agatha in Egypt as she tracks down a thief. In book two she’s searching for a stolen pearl in India.

Fun and over-the-top, this series is perfect for kids who have graduated from the Nate the Great or who are fans of the Cam Jansen or Capitol Mysteries series.


The Curse of the Pharoah by Sir Steve Stevenson; Penguin; $5.99

The Pearl of Bengal by Sir Steve Stevenson; Penguin; $5.99

A Perfect Winter Read


Looking for the perfect young adult novel to curl up with while it’s freezing outside? Try The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban.

Duncan returns to Irving School for his senior year, hoping to avoid discussing, or even thinking about, his role in the tragic event the winter before. But the previous tenant of his room, an albino named Tim, has graduated and left a stack of CDs for Duncan. The recordings not only reveal the details behind the tragedy, they narrate a secret romance between Tim and the most popular girl in school.

Duncan just wants to forget what happened last year, but as he becomes caught up in Tim’s story, he realizes it is influencing his own. Told in alternating perspectives, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling mystery that evokes the boarding school environment of The Disreputable History of Frank Landau Banks. Laban’s debut novel will keep the reader on edge as the tragedy looms closer and closer.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban; Knopf; $17.99; Ages 12 and up

Shades of London Trilogy

madnessunderneathThe Madness Underneath just came out, and we have signed copies!

For those of you new to the Shades of London trilogy, you’re in for a treat. A very spooky, treat.  In The Name of the Star,  Rory Devaux transfers to a London boarding school where she becomes entangled in a murder investigation.   A Jack the Ripper copycat is terrorizing the East End, and on the night of one of the murders, Rory sees a suspect. The real trouble is, she seems to be the only one who can see him. Worse still, he knows she saw him and soon she becomes a target. Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part boarding school story, Maureen Johnson creates a compelling and original novel.

  The Name of the Star is the first of the trilogy, but I appreciated the fact that it stood well on its own. While I was eager to dive into book 2 after finishing the last page, I was satisfied with the completion of this particular story line. The best news, however, is that book two: The Madness Underneath was just released and so I don’t need to wait for it to come out.

Watch the trailer for The Madness Underneath here.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson; Speak; $9.99

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson; Putnam; $17.99

Code Name Verity

I’ve decided that Elizabeth Wein must have some kind of vendetta against reviewers. Because really, has there ever been a book more impossible to review than Code Name Verity? I have read raves about this book in two different newspapers and on half a dozen blogs. And at some point, everyone says “I don’t want to spoil it for you…” Because, as the character Verity repeats “Careless talk costs lives!” Or at least it costs the reader some enjoyment for this fascinating, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching tale of friendship and mistakes.

So although I am fortunately not facing torture and interrogation by the Gestapo, I will keep my mouth shut. As Verity sings the praises of her friend Maddie, I will merely point out the many wonders of this book. The historical setting, in 1940’s England, Scotland and France is precise and vivid, helping us understand the tensions and sacrifices of living in wartime. The story is an adventure, taking both main characters far outside their experience and comfort zones. It’s a mystery, because for most of the story, neither main character knows what has happened to the other. Wein is a master of foreshadowing and irony. Everyone I know who has read the book immediately went straight back to the beginning after they finished, to try and track down the clues hidden in the text. Finally, and most importantly, it is a story of friendship. Friendship of the best kind–two people who are different in background, interests, and personality but who just fit so perfectly that they will protect each other until they die. For anyone interested in the lost heroes of World War II, spies and pilots, or just tales of unlikely and lifelong friendships, this is the book to read.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, Hyperion, $16.99  Ages 14 and up

Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner

Summer’s pick:

Alice Tuckfield is a fugitive. Living in Elizabethan England, she witnesses her father’s murder. Too afraid to go to the authorities, Alice runs away to York in search of a family friend. Before she can reach the friend, however, Alice is taken in by a group of choir boys who disguise her as a boy and sneak her into the cathedral boys’ choir. Safe and happy for the time being, Alice tries to figure out the identities of her father’s murderers. They might be closer than she thinks, though, and Alice could be in more danger than anyone realizes. Infused with humor, danger, and mystery, both boys and girls will enjoy this story because the main characters are male and female. This is a good book for young readers and excellent as a family-friendly read aloud.

A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner (Sandpiper); Ages 9-12; $6.95

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Rachel’s Pick)

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (ages 14 and up)

hushHigh school student Nora Grey’s world is turned upside down when she meets a mysterious new student named Patch.  It’s obvious from the start that there’s something different about Patch, and Nora can’t even begin to imagine what it is.  At first, Patch’s quick witty come-ons and open flirtation leads Nora to believe that he’s just trying to get a rise out of her.  With the help of her best friend Vee, Nora is determined to find out Patch’s secrets and expose him for whatever he is.  But as each of Patch’s secrets comes to light, Nora plunges further into a darker side of Patch’s life, one where her very life hangs in the balance.

Becca Fitzpatrick’s first novel, a highly entertaining read. I could barely put it down!

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick; Simon & Schuster; $17.99; Copyright 2009

Masterpiece: Artistic Beetle Foils Art Theft!

Masterpiece book coverMasterpiece, by Elise Broach (8-10)

Mystery, betrayal, secrets and masterpieces are all part of this exciting and clever story by Ms. Broach. Marvin the beetle creates a special miniature sketch of the streetscape for young James Pompaday using the ink and paper art set that James receives for his birthday. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that James created the work himself. This leads James and Martin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where James is asked to take part in a daring ruse; create a forgery of a famous art sketch to keep it from being stolen! When the real masterpiece is stolen, Martin and James both become involved in trying to foil the art thief.

A fun, involving, masterful story.  I could not put this book down!  Reading about Martin’s efforts to communicate with James and their near escape from the art thief just had me hooked.  The sketches, themselves, add to the story. A great read for those who enjoyed  Chasing Vermeer or The Shakespeare Stealer.

Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Henry Holt & Co., 2008, $16.99