Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

My latest read is Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells. It’s a great addition to any libraries that serve upper elementary and middle grade readers.

This first book in the Eddie Red Undercover series is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. (See the full list of nominees here.) This is only the third book on the list I’ve read–the others are The Iron Trial and Rain Reign–and I liked it more than I anticipated. It’s an easy, entertaining read with a cool mystery and a diverse cast of characters. The main character’s voice really shines through and makes the story even better. I think that many of my students will adore this first Eddie Red adventure, and they’ll definitely be on the lookout for more stories.

Edmund Xavier Lonnrot is not a typical sixth-grader. He has a photographic memory and the ability to draw nearly anything that passes through his field of vision. This gift comes in especially handy when Edmund and his dad are witnesses to a crime. Edmund is able to show the police exactly who and what he saw, and this ability gives the police an idea. Maybe they can use Edmund to help catch a notorious gang of art thieves.

It takes a bit of convincing, but Edmund’s parents finally agree to let him help the cops…as long as he’s not placed in any danger. And that’s how “Eddie Red” comes to be. Working undercover at various museums on the famous Museum Mile in New York City, Eddie Red takes note of any and all faces he sees and passes his notes and drawings along to the cops. Some people seem familiar, but, for the most part, Edmund’s job is kind of boring…at first.

Edmund knows he could figure things out if he had more information and a bit of help, so that’s exactly what he gets. He uses his photographic memory to take mental snapshots of the case files, maps, etc., and he works with his hyperactive best friend, Jonah, to piece together this confusing puzzle. But how can two kids hope to solve this mystery when the cops are stumped?

Never underestimate a couple of genius-level sixth-graders with a mystery in front of them…

Edmund and company are getting closer and closer to discovering the truth, but danger is also making its way nearer to Edmund. He could be headed for more trouble than he ever anticipated. What is Edmund to do?

Will Edmund give up his quest for the truth and ensure his own safety? Or will Eddie Red throw caution to the wind, try to expose the bad guys, and put himself in the line of fire? What would you do?


I look forward to talking to my students about this wonderful book. Edmund’s voice is spot-on and reminds me a bit of Percy Jackson in Rick Riordan’s fabulous books. He’s sarcastic, exasperated, and a totally realistic example of a sixth grader in the modern world. Even though I’ll be promoting Eddie Red Undercover to third-fifth graders, I have a feeling many of them will relate to Edmund’s thoughts and experiences.

Eddie Red Undercover is also an excellent choice for promoting diverse books. Edmund is a young African-American boy living in New York. His best friend is red-headed, Jewish, and has both ADHD and OCD. Edmund’s supervising officer is a large, rather hard-nosed, Italian man. And those are just the main characters in this book. The supporting cast is equally diverse and is a much more accurate snapshot of American life—particularly in New York City–than other similar stories.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile will not be a hard sell to readers who like a good mystery. It’s an enthralling read that will make readers of any age eager to turn the page. But this book is not just a mystery. It’s also full of humor, interesting facts about art, self-defense, and even things like geometry and chess. There’s something here for everyone!

If this first Eddie Red Undercover book sounds like something you’d enjoy, you may also want to take a look at the second book, Mystery in Mayan Mexico. A third book, Doom at Grant’s Tomb, will be out on April 5th.

To learn more about the entire Eddie Red Undercover series, check out author Marcia Wells’ website. You can also learn more about the book’s illustrator, Marcos Calo, here.

Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles

I admit it.  I am a doodler.  Sometimes, that’s the only thing that gets me through long, boring meetings or conferences.  (You should see my notes from some of my college classes.  You can barely make out the actual notes because of all the doodles on the sides of the pages.)  I totally sympathize with students who feel the need to draw a little bit when I’m teaching.  (I don’t particularly like it when I’m the one doing the teaching, but I do understand it.)  Sometimes drawing helps students to focus…and that is the case with the main character in Doodlebug by Karen Romano Young.  This book–written almost entirely in doodles–tells about a girl who moves from Los Angeles to San Francisco and how she tries to find her voice–even when it seems like no one understands her.

After a bit of trouble at her school in Los Angeles–and her dad getting a new job–Dodo (real name Doreen) and her family are moving all the way up to San Francisco.  Dodo is not really happy about the move, and she decides to cope in her own special way…by doodling.  She doodles about her parents, her sister Momo, the new apartment they’re staying in, and her new school.  She even uses her doodles to reinvent herself.  Dodo is now known as the Doodlebug.

Doodlebug kind of likes her new school.  In a very short time, she makes a couple of pretty cool friends.  Unfortunately, she also gets in a bit of trouble (also in a very short amount of time).  She doesn’t want to screw things up at this school, but she just can’t seem to help it.  Things don’t get much better when a couple of her teachers try to make her quit doodling.  (The horror!)

While Doodlebug’s worrying about staying out of trouble (or at least covering up the trouble she’s already in), her sister Momo is dealing with her own brand of defiance, and her mom and dad are trying to keep the jobs that brought them to San Francisco in the first place.  Doodlebug does her best to be a good student (while still being able to doodle), and she may find some help–with a number of her problems–in some unexpected places.

Doodlebug is yet another nominee for the 2012-2013 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.  It’s a good book, an extremely quick read, and it’s different from a lot of other books out there, but part of me feels like it’s more suited to readers in middle school.  The main character is kind of sarcastic and has very little problem with rule-breaking.  (She is a seventh grader, after all.)  She’s impulsive and hard-headed as well.  I guess I just think that middle school readers will relate to the character of Doodlebug more that my sweet little angels in elementary school.  (See…I can be sarcastic, too!)

Additionally, I don’t think many of my elementary school students will be able to focus on some of the writing in this book.  A lot of it is cursive, which can be confusing for kids who’ve never really been exposed to much cursive writing.

Even though I am a visual learner, it was sometimes hard for me to focus while reading this book.  My eyes didn’t know where to look first on some of the pages.  (I may be visual, but I’m also a very linear thinker.  I like order.)  Some readers may be turned off by the “busyness” of the pages.  On the other hand, it will be just what other readers are looking for.

I would recommend this book to readers in upper elementary (mature 4th or 5th graders) and middle school.  It’s a fast read that Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans will most likely enjoy.

If you’d like to learn more about Doodlebug and author Karen Romano Young, visit http://www.karenromanoyoung.com/.