Zora and her friends Carrie and Teddy get into all sorts of trouble in their small Florida community in the early 1900s. Zora has a flair for the dramatic and is always making up one story or another. After a local man is mauled to death trying to wrestle an alligator, Zora comes up with two stories-- one about Mr. Pendir having the snout of an alligator, and one about what might have happened to a man found murdered beside the railroad tracks. Her stories make it hard for anyone to believe her, but Zora is convinced that she knows what happened to the murdered man, and tries to make her parents believe her to make sure that justice is done.
Strengths: Many students would not know who Zora Neale Hurston is, and this is a good introduction to the author combined with a mystery.
Weaknesses: This is a small book with a somewhat cartoonish cover, but the contents are not necessarily for very young children. There is a lot of heavy duty coverage of prejudice and discrimination, as well as romantic intrigue. The language is also very rich, especially when Zora is spinning her yarns.
Margolis, Leslie. Vanishing Acts. (Maggie Brooklyn #2)
Maggie is still walking dogs, and this time the problem is that someone is hiding in the park and throwing eggs at the dogs. Not only that, but when Maggie spends some time being an extra in a film, she meets the star, Seth Ryan. He then goes missing, and Maggie thinks she can find out what happened to him. Maggie's friends and neighbors play a big part in this plot, as does the neighborhood itself. Maggie learns that stardom isn't all it seems to be, and in the end, solves both mysteries.
Strengths: While light on plot, the characters in this series are so fun that the book is very engaging. The small size and appealing cover art by Tuesday Mourning (as well as the inclusion of dogs!) will make this a bit hit with girls in 3rd through 7th grade.
Weaknesses: Again, light on plot, and somewhat transparent mystery.
Thanks for Erik over at This Kid Reviews Books for awarding me a Liebster Award. If you want book reviews from an actual middle grade boy, head over and check out his great blog. Since I posted the answers to all the questions back in the fall, I won't bore people again-- instead, spend your time visiting Erik!