Monday, May 20, 2024

MMGM- Capitol Chase

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Landis, Matthew. Capitol Chase (National Archive Hunters #1)
May 14, 2024 by Pixel+Ink
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Twins Ike and Iris Carter are very different. Ike is a huge history buff, and Iris is a select athlete. Both get along with their parents; ex-Army dad works in security at the children's Montessor school, K Street Academy, and their mother is in charge of the small Americana museum. The family, who lives in Foggy Bottom, often does training runs on the Rock Creek Trail at 5 a.m. to the Lincoln Memorial and are very supportive of the mother's work. When she has a new installation, Fashion of the Founders, Ike and Iris both help out, circulating hors d'oeuvres while the father tries to cover security. When checking out the miniature display, Iris sees a girl acting suspiciously, and when she breaks the glass and steals a miniature of George Washington. Hoping to be able to catch the girl, the twins take after her, but are unable to catch her due to a man in spandex who slams into them. The miniature is not worth much, so Ike suspects that the thief is trying to amass a collection. They consult with Ruby, who works at the National Archives Research Center where their mother has taken a part time job. They get some good information, and when they suspect that another theft will occur, they go with their mother on a trip she takes to Philadelphia to try to shore up the poor reputation of the Americana. They again run into the girl, who manages to steal a ring that had belonged to Alexander Hamilton. Since they are present at a second robbery, they are questioned by the FBI. It looks bad, and they retain Stu, a lawyer who operates out of a deli. He tells them not to answer questions without him. When Ike and Iris find out that a French book is going to be viewed in Boston, they think it is the net item that will be stolen. They try to stop this heist, are unable to, and are now in BIG trouble. Their names are all over the news, and their mother is fired. Not only has Ike worked out that there is a French connection to American history, and determined what items are likely to be targets, but he has even figured out the most likely culprit. It's not someone who wants to steal things, although she is quite good at it, and there seems to be an evil organization involving Cincinnatus behind the plot. Will Ike and Iris be able to catch the thief, retrieve the items, and somehow manage to save the Americana museum so their mother can keep her job? 

I'm a big fan of a good art heist, like Salane's Lawless, Wells' Eddie Red, McLean's  Catch Us if You Can (Jewel Society#1), Ponti's Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery,or Carter's Heist Society, and this does have a decided National Treasure feel to it that even Ike and Iris acknowledge. There haven't been as many new spy and heist books as I need lately, so it was great to see this one. 

It's also very clear that Landis knows his history. He's a social studies teacher who clearly has a good sense of humor and knows how to engage kids. He's also invented an interesting small museum, the Americana, which the Carter family is quite attached to. There is a lot of Revolutionary War history conveyed through the artifacts, and even more about the various repositories of artifacts that was fascinating. Ruby is a fabulous character, and so knowledgeable that I was pretty sure at several points that SHE might be the thief. (Is she? I won't tell.)

There's plenty of action and adventure, and the Carter's training with their ex-military father comes in handy. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was the fact that they got in trouble with the FBI and got a lot of negative press. I've read a lot of stories where children are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but any repercussions always seem to magically go away. The fact that Ike and Iris had to prove that they weren't the thieves tickled me and also moved the plot along quickly. 

I wasn't as big a fan of the kids' personalities and attitudes, but that might be because I have to deal with similar sassiness from middle school students every day. Ike's mother knows that he has a tendency to talk down to people and to be rather brusque, and even punishes him for it. I'm hoping that as the series continues and the twins identify and fight against Cincinnatus that they both grow as characters. 

Like Gibbs' Spy School series, this involves parents, which I always find delightful. With mom's antiquities skills, you know they won't be putting lemon juice on the back of the Constitution to look for clues, and when we find out more about dad's army service, I see a lot of opportunities for connections from the past to surface, some of whom might have access to exciting forms of transportation or secret locations. I would be all for a return visit to Camp David, which I first got to visit in Garretson's Wildfire Run and could have imagined a great chase scene in The Cozy Restaurant, which sadly closed in 2014. This is a fantastic title to have to encourage middle grade readers to understand the impact on history on the present day. 


  1. This sounds like an interesting heist story. And the author must have gotten the kids' voices right if they remind you of your students.

  2. I feel like kids will gobble this book up, Karen—the suspense and mystery and action of the heist plot sound super-engaging, and I love the added layers of historical accuracy, and parents being present in the story too. I do get what you mean about the kids' sassiness—I can actually think of quite a few kids' TV shows that kind of perpetuate this idea that it's okay to be snarky and rude to people, when that's just not true. I really appreciate your thoughtful review, and enjoy your week!

  3. I love a good art heist too and it's also very appealing for me to have parents involved with meaningful roles. I'll definitely be looking for this one.

  4. This looks like fun! I like the idea of kids getting in trouble for "suspicious" reasons. Plus a lawyer who works out of a deli? Count me in for this book.

  5. Wow! This sounds like a terrific story. I'm putting it on my list. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. Ooh, this sounds interesting. Will have to keep an eye out for it.