It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Ponti, James. Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery
August 23rd 2016 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edleweiss Above the Treeline
Florian Bates's parents are both connected to the art world, and they have just moved back to the US from Italy, so that his father can work at a museum in Washington, D.C. Florian is exceptionally observant, using a theory he has concocted called Theory Of All Small Things, which is very Sherlockian in nature. When he and neighbor Margaret watch a young man in the museum copying paintings, and some of those same paintings later go missing, he is able to crack the case even though no one else can. He is made a "covert asset" by the F.B.I. and agent Mark Rivers makes sure he is trained and keeps him safe. This isn't easy to do when Romanian mob boss Nic the Knife shows up at one of Margaret's soccer games, and Florian later makes the bad choice of going to a gallery opening and being seen by the bad guy. Still, he's not too worried, and Margaret gives him a case as well-- find her parents, who abandoned her at a local fire station 12 years ago. Filled with great characters and lots of action and adventure, Framed is hopefully the first book in a nice, long series!
While Florian is clearly intelligent, he doesn't come off as precocious or smarmy. In fact, he teaches his system to Margaret, who is almost as good at it as he is! He's more than willing to help out the F.B.I. and isn't smarmy about it-- in fact, he realizes that he can be lead astray by planted clues as easily as anyone. This is just a great balance to find in a middle grade characters and shows a lot of understanding about tweens on the part of the author!
The D.C. setting, as well as the art museums, paintings and events, are all quite interesting. While some of the connections are a bit far fetched, none are completely beyond belief. It's too bad that the artwork couldn't have been shown in the book-- I am sure that readers will want to Google the paintings mentioned right away.
I love that the adults in this book are present and supportive, but not hovering. Florian's parents are very busy with work, so having Agent Rivers take an interest in Florian's abilities is a nice touch. Of course, for teen readers, the best parts will be the kidnappings, car chases, and getting the better of both the criminals and the F.B.I.
Framed! Is a great read for fans of clue oriented mysteries like Blue Balliet's book, but also great for readers who enjoy comic crime novels like Schreiber's Con Academy or Carter's Heist Society. It's such a fun middle grade read, though, that I will be handing this to just about everyone!