I checked this one out even though mystery isn’t my usual genre these days, because Charlotte got it as her diverse book for #WeNeedDiverseBooks day. Her son enjoyed it, and I was hoping that it might be fun for my son, too.
And on a randomish side note – exciting news for Michigan fantasy fans: Stephanie Burgis, author of the Kat, Incorrigible books, will be at the East Lansing Public Library on July 30!!! I am trying to figure out a way to get over there myself!
Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells. Illustrated by Marcos Calo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Edmund Lanrott has a photographic memory and is very good at drawing, but other than that, he’s just another middle class African-American kid. Then, two things happen: his father, a librarian (yay!), is laid off (boo!), making his private school tuition suddenly out of reach. Then, he sees some people from a scuffle in the street goes by, and manages to see their faces. When the police see his drawing – recognizable as a wanted art thief – he’s hired as an undercover agent, code name Eddie Red. His job: hang out at New York art museums, publicly sketching the art and secretly keeping an eye out for any of the known members of an art thieving ring, just to draw pictures of them in whatever their current disguises might be. It’s supposed to be very low risk, though neither Edmund’s mother nor the detective he’s assigned to work for, Detective Bonavo, want him involved. Of course it’s all top secret, but Edmund feels pretty sure that he will explode if he doesn’t share some of the details with his genius best friend, Jonah. But when they put together the clues and the adults won’t believe their conclusions, proving themselves right may be more dangerous than they were counting on.
What a great book! Eddie’s gradual change from scared and nerdy to risk-taking, while nothing that an adult would want a kid doing, seemed utterly believable from a kid perspective. His ethnic background is certainly a part of who he is – most obvious in his parents using “icky” endearments based on their African origins as revealed in a genetic test – but it’s done in a way that feels natural and isn’t what the story is about. The illustrations throughout are Eddie’s own sketches of the characters he meets, including one of himself in a cool spy outfit. I don’t gravitate towards mystery as much as I used to, but this is the kind of thing I remember loving as a kid, the almost average kid getting involved in exciting adventures just this side of too dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s a little too advanced yet for my son – he was very intrigued when I read the opening to him, but bogged down a couple weeks into it. 9 is probably the bottom edge of the interest range anyway – it feels perfect for 10-13. I’ve already sold it to more kids at the library.