Thursday, April 06, 2023

To Catch a Thief

Brockenbrough, Martha. To Catch a Thief
April 4, 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Amelia McGuffin lives with her large family in Urchin Beach near the Pacific ocean. Her parents run the local general store, and struggle to keep their house repaired and their five children organized! They depend on the tourists who come for the local Dragonfly Day festival every year, but this year there is a problem: the dragonfly staff, which plays a large part in fundraising, has been stolen. Not only that, but there are numerous small objects that are also going missing. More seriously, storms have damaged a lot of the beach area, and require extensive repair. The wet weather has also wiped out a large portion of the dragonflies. Amelia and her friends Birdie (whose family runs the local newspaper) and Delphine try to investigate the thefts. The McGuffin children have found an abandoned dog, whom they name Doc, that they have taken in even though their parents have said they can't afford another mouth to feed. If the Dragonfly festival fails, they will definitely not get to keep the dog. With the help of neighbor Dr. Agatha and a library book on detecting, Amelia works hard to solve the mystery. A lot of suspicion falls on new neighbors, twins Dot and Dash Morse, as well as Amelia's own mother. Just when she is closing in on the thief, a mudslide cuts off Urchin Beach from the rest of the world. Is Dragonfly Day doomed? 
Strengths: Amelia and her large family have a lot of freedom to wander around their colorful, close knit town and have adventures, but there are also a lot of serious issues brought up about the environment, local economies, and social justice. I appreciated that the family took such good care of Doc, but made sure that the vet scanned him for a microchip and made an effort to find his owner. Amelia acquires and uses a lot of good skills is trying to identify clues and think critically about the situation, and I enjoyed Dr. Agatha, the somewhat surly older neighbor. This was a quirky, somewhat clue-oriented mystery. 
Weaknesses: There are a lot of inside literary jokes; a local realtor is named Mike Jung, and there are a lot of current middle grade authors mentioned. I thought this was amusing, but it might confuse most of my students. Of course, if they ask, it will be great fun to explain it to them and get them books by Anne Ursu, Laurel Snyder, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Laura Ruby, Kelly Barnhill, Tracey Baptiste, and Linda Urban! 
What I really think: This was a little bit like Blakemore's The Friendship Riddle mixed with Lemony Snicket's All the Wrong Questions series. This will be very successful with elementary audiences, but my middle school readers have been looking for more serious mysteries, involving murder whenever possible.

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