Fantaskey, Beth. Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter.
March 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Isabel's mother is struggling financially in 1920s Chicago after the death of Isabel's father in The Great War. Isabel sells newspapers, hoping to bring in a little money to augment her mother's salary as a cleaning lady at a hospital, but secretly hopes to be a news reporter like the glamorous Maude Collier. After a salesgirl who gives Isabel extra money for the papers is accused of shooting her mobster boyfriend, Isabel meets Maude and starts her own investigation. She befriends not only the son of the salesgirl, but the daughter of the mobster, and spend a lot of time running around the mean streets of Chicago looking for clues. Maude isn't exactly what Isabel envisioned, and the police are too thrilled with having an urchin sticking her nose into their investigation, but Isabel is able to crack the case when they are not.
Strengths: This had lots of good details about the time period, and about the importance of newspapers at the time. This had A Tree Grows in Brooklyn vibe with the difficulties of poverty that Isabel faced without being as slow paced as that wonderful book. I enjoyed the details about so many things, AND my students will love that it is a murder mystery.
Weaknesses: A little long, and doesn't have a great cover. I'll buy anyway, but a little more revision and a better cover would make this easier to sell!
What I really think: Murder mysteries are always in demand for middle grade, but it's hard to find convincing ones. This worked, and maybe students will learn some 1920s history while satisfying their bloodlust! A great nonfiction companion for this would be Blumnethals' Tommy: The Gun that Changed America.