Continued from p. 47
join forces with Dev’s sidekick, Booker, as
they search for clues to the identity of the
thief. Fairstein is an author of adult books,
and this background is apparent in her first
book for younger readers. The adult sensibilities of the trio of sleuths, combined with
references to Dashiell Hammett characters,
might be confusing to some younger readers.
Still, the short chapters, quick action, and
the resolutions of problems will appeal to
fans of the Red Blazer Girls series or Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s Moving Target (2015).
— Teri Lesesne
League of Archers.
By Eva Howard.
Dec. 2016. 228p. Aladdin, $16.99 (9781481460378).
This new spin on the Robin Hood story
introduces Elinor Dray, a preteen novice.
Not simply a nun, she is also a member of
the League of Archers, a team of childhood
friends who poach from the local baron’s
land. They idolize Robin Hood but never
think of filling his outlaw shoes, until Elinor
is accused of his murder. His death reveals
the abbess of the nunnery as Maid Marian,
and now Ellie is on the run, and Marian set
to hang unless the League of Archers can find
a way to contact the disbanded Merry Men
and mount a rescue. In this version, Robin
Hood is a deeply flawed man whose heroics
often come at a high price for friend and foe
alike. Ellie and her League are a likable troupe
who rise above the stereotype of plucky urchins and learn to make tough choices about
loyalty and honor. This is a highly enjoyable
adventure story that should appeal to a wide
range of readers. —Kara Dean
Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Deliciously
By Clementine Beauvais and others.
Oct. 2016. 304p. IPG/Egmont, paper, $9.99
(9781405282642). Gr. 4–7.
Sometimes a person needs a mystery fix,
and this story collection neatly does the trick.
Twelve miniature whodunits, all penned by
women, are arranged into four categories:
“Impossible Plots,” “Canine Capers,” “Poison
Plots,” and “Closed-System Crimes.” Sure,
there’s murder, theft, and sabotage, but things
never get too grisly, making it a perfect pick
for middle-grade gumshoes. Several of the
stories give a nod to literary greats, like Poirot
and Sherlock, but one of the collection’s
strongest assets is its variety, ranging from his-
toric to contemporary to the fantastic. Even
more important, however, is how kid detec-
tives crack the cases before adults every time.
Though a few stories take rather great leaps to
reach their conclusions, most are well crafted
and intriguing. Among the finest is Frances
Hardinge’s “God’s Eye,” in which a boy in-
vestigates a death-by-hot-air-balloon. Also of
note are Katherine Woodfine’s “The Mystery
of the Purloined Pearls,” featuring cracker-
jack detective work by a chorus girl, and Kate
Pankhurst’s “Dazzle, Dog Biscuits, and Disas-
ter.” A solid choice for readers looking for a
taste of crime. —Julia Smith
Nothing but Trouble.
By Jacqueline Davies.
Nov. 2016. 320p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99
(9780062369888). Gr. 5–7.
Two things happen to Maggie the morning seventh grade begins. First, she meets
Lena, the new girl who will become her best
friend. Next, a practical joke fills the middle-school hallway with happy chaos: tennis balls
bouncing, toy cars zooming, helium balloons
floating upward, and a toy mouse parachuting down. Soon, “The mouse is in the house!”
becomes the students’ rallying cry as the autocratic new principal tries and fails to stop an
escalating series of hacks. That’s hack in the
MIT sense: to carry out elaborate, creative
pranks with precision, secrecy, and flair. Best
known for The Lemonade War (2007) and its
sequels, Davies brings the same strong sense
of narrative along with a well-drawn, small-town setting and a number of believable,
sometimes quirky characters. Throughout the
book, Lena’s artistic outlook complements
Maggie’s engineering bent. An appended activities section includes such related features
as “Why Maggie Loves Sir Isaac Newton” and
“How to Make a Dada Poem.” A flying start
for a new series. —Carolyn Phelan
Race the Night.
By Kirsten Hubbard.
Nov. 2016. 288p. Disney/Hyperion, $16.99
(9781484708347). Gr. 4–7.
Eider lives with four other children in the
safety of a compound in a remote stretch of
desert, far away from the devastation wrought
by the end of the world, according to their
teacher. In their small classroom, they’re
encouraged to focus their attention on the
future and their own special skills, not the
past or what’s beyond the camp’s high fences.
But Eider can’t help her curiosity, especially
when she remembers her sister, Robin. She’s
been told her sister never existed, but Eider
knows differently, and when she and her
classmates begin to see holes in Teacher’s lessons, Eider becomes determined to escape for
good. Hubbard leaves lots of elements out of
her story—why is Teacher training the children and where did they come from?—but
those hints and glimmers at a backstory only
heighten the mystery and build a gentle sense
of dread. Though the ultimate conclusion leaves
many questions unanswered and relies on remarkable convenience, the eerie atmosphere
and intelligent, determined kid characters will
appeal to plenty of readers. —Sarah Hunter
Runs with Courage.
By Joan M. Wolf.
Oct. 2016. 216p. Sleeping Bear, $16.99
(9781585369843). Gr. 4–7.
Four Winds is a 10-year-old Lakota girl who
must find courage after being forced to leave
her tiospaye, family community, and attend a
boarding school. The novel is set in 1880, and
it is evident to the reader from the beginning
that white settlers have displaced and coerced
the Lakota people. Four Winds quickly, and
painfully, learns that the boarding school has
no interest in preserving her culture. Readers
and educators should start with the appended
author’s note, which provides brief historical
context for this story, in order to better un-
derstand the complexity of boarding-school
narratives within Native American culture.
Although Wolf’s characters endure a variety
of violence, such as being physically punished
for speaking their native tongue, they also re-
fuse to forget their Lakota traditions. Their
resilience and resistance is apparent through-
out this dark yet moving piece of historical
fiction. Consider pairing with Jenny Kay Du-
puis and Kathy Kacer’s I Am Not a Number
(2016) or Nancy Bo Flood’s Soldier Sister, Fly
Home (2016). —Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez
By Holly Goldberg Sloan.
Jan. 2017. 304p. Dial, $16.99 (9780399186219).
In this sweet and uplifting story, quirky
middle-schooler Julia grows up in unexpected
ways after winning the roles of a Munchkin
and a winged monkey in a summer production of The Wizard of Oz.
She can’t dance or sing,
but she’s ideally suited for
the roles because she’s very
short. Julia hopes being in
the play will help take her
mind off the recent death
of her beloved dog, Ramon.
She’s not the best student,
isn’t a good listener, and tends to daydream,
but she’s wryly observant, especially of the
adults around her, who often act more out
of control than the kids. She finds friendship
and great role models in an elderly neighbor
and in a number of people involved with the
show: her director, a talented costume designer, and Olive, a woman with dwarfism who
plays a fellow Munchkin. Julia’s tendency for
self-analysis and her unique view of things is
often very funny, as in the way she compares
blue cheese to the tops of her grandmother’s
legs when she’s in her swimsuit. It’s refreshing that Julia doesn’t mind being short and
believes she’s “little, but big inside.” Her
self-acceptance is inspiring, and the joy she
experiences in her foray into theater is irresistible. —Sharon Rawlins
By Ami Polonsky.
Nov. 2016. 256p. Disney/Hyperion, $16.99
(9781484746905). Gr. 4–7.
Twelve-year-old Clara is still reeling from
the death of her adopted Chinese sister, Lola,
when she stumbles into an unexpected situation: zipped into a purse at a mall store, she
finds a desperate note from a 13-year-old girl
named Yuming, a child laborer trapped in a