5 Books I Wanted to Nominate for My Book Club’s Middle Grade Mystery Theme & the One I Did

September 9, 2020

So my book club is doing middle grade mysteries for October, and unfortunately, I can only nominate one book. One! This is sad for me because I have a lot of books that I could recommend because I want the people in my book club to read and/or talk about them. Just for context (do I need more context?), after I taught the detective literature course at my school last fall, I said my dream would be to teach the class again and focus solely on middle grade capers or puzzle books. (I was sick of all the murdering and violence in the adult literature.) The point is that this topic lives close to my heart. 

So, anyway, here are all the books I wanted to nominate for my book club to read and the one I did wind up nominating in the end.

The Harlem CharadeThe Harlem Charade by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a super cute middle grade mystery with great messages about friendship, honesty, gentrification, art, and history. I have some stylistic issues with the story that I’ll list below, but honestly, those are things that bug me as an adult reader but that probably would be overlooked by most kids in her target audience. Well, maybe not the first thing.

– My biggest issue with this book is that Rose is left out of most of the action and also that she seems to be okay with it. I would’ve been less bugged about it if she were treated as more of a Wade from Kim Possible figure, but she was supposedly Jin’s best friend, and Jin just dropped her and started hanging out with these two new kids, having adventures all around town? *I* was bothered by that, so I know Rose would have been. Yes, I’m projecting. No, I don’t care.

– It took me a long time to figure out that Elvin was supposed to be the same age as Rose, Alex, and Jin. I sincerely thought he was, like, eight or nine for the longest time.

– Tarpley uses an omniscient narrator, but she’s not consistent in how she uses it. I thought each section was going to be from one character’s limited POV based on how the first chapter was set up, but then she switched to another character after a few chapters and then she would switch between characters in the same section. So that was jarring.

So, some minor quibbles, but all in all, a good, fun read.

View all my reviews The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read. I assigned this to my Mystery and Crime fiction class, and we had one of our richest discussions of the semester. This is, like all great children’s fiction, pretty straight forward but is wise beyond its years. It’s also a master class in character development.
View all my reviews

Sammy Keys and the Hotel ThiefSammy Keys and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sammy is such a fun character. My daughter and I enjoyed listening to this one.

View all my reviews Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Mr. Lemoncello's Library #1)Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was so fun. A love letter to books, reading, games, and, of course, libraries.

Sierra is my favorite. Love her.

View all my reviews The Great Greene Heist (The Great Greene Heist, #1)The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Super cute book with excellent characters. In fact, the kids reminded me a lot of my daughter’s friends and classmates. Plus, it’s basically Ocean’s 11! But for kids!

View all my reviews

Ultimately, I went with Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.


My daughter pointed out that the point of book club should be to try something new and since I am currently reading this book, I think it counts. The other problem, of course, is that my to-read list on Goodreads is not at all organized since I add books to it all willy-nilly but never (or very, very, very, VERY rarely) categorize them until I read them. Which is smart for tracking books I have read! Not so smart when I’m trying to find a book to read that scratches a particular itch. Also, you know, I am enjoying this book so wouldn’t mind talking about it with some people.

I doubt my book will get picked because there are some strong contenders so either way (unless they pick a book I have already read and don’t care to read again), I’ll be happy. Yay middle grade mystery!

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