This fun mystery, full of riddles and puzzles, is a perfect fit for my students who go to school in New York City’s upper east side (where the children in the book do) and who are familiar with most of the landmarks referenced in the book and yet will be intrigued to know more about the hidden history of them. Do I wish that the sentence-level writing a bit stronger and some of the more far-fetched scenarios handled more skillfully, yes. However, I thoroughly enjoyed following the clues and finally to see the big payback!
It also is refreshing to have a book where three school-aged children are collaborating with a grown up (the over-70 Eloise) who has much to offer, such as her own living knowledge of NYC history.
The major “gripe” I have about this book is in Sherry’s decision of featuring racially homogeneous main and supporting characters – Brid (the 9-year-old sister) is described as a “willowy, wiry blond” (with Patrick, the 6-year-old brother, having electric-blue eyes). Their next-door neighbor, Lukas Williamson talks to the main characters while “brushing back his blond hair”… and then, a very minor, but only school-friend character of CJ (the 12-year-old brother,) is described as having “thick blond hair that shrouded his blue eyes.” Or, perhaps my issue is the “mindlessness” or laziness of using stock and cliched phrases when one creates and describes any character. I work in a pretty high-profiled NYC upper east side private school, and I KNOW for a fact that well-to-do families in 2011 come in all colors and shades and children do not confine themselves in interacting with same-color/race peers any more. After listening to and reading her article Straight Talk on Race: Challenging the Stereotypes in Kids’ Books, I am hyper aware of such details.