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Acclaimed Middle-Grade Mysteries
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Acclaimed Middle-Grade Mysteries

By kileyturner
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Great reviews and/or awards single these out as great reads for 8–12-year-olds.
Clara Voyant

Clara Voyant

also available: Paperback

A wannabe journalist and reluctant astrologer turns out to be clairvoyant in this charming middle-grade coming-of-age novel; for fans of Rebecca Stead's novels.

Clara can't believe her no-nonsense grandmother has just up and moved to Florida, leaving Clara and her mother on their own for the first time. This means her mother can finally "follow her bliss," which involves moving to a tiny apartment in Kensington Market, working at a herbal remedy shop and trying to develop her so-called mystical p …

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Clara Costa had only been at Kensington Middle School for a month, but already she understood the implications of a Blazer Day. All the Newsies did. When Wesley Ferris, editor-in-chief of the Kensington Middle School Gazette, showed up to school wearing a blazer, she meant business.
So when the last bell rang on Tuesday afternoon, Clara was ready. She’d been watching the clock tick steadily toward 3:15 all through math class. The second it hit, she slammed her textbook shut, hopped out of her desk, and beelined for her meeting.
Unfortunately, it was hard to get anywhere fast at Kensington Middle School, or KMS as the students called it. KMS was enormous—easily three times the size of High Park Public, where Clara had gone to elementary school—and jam-packed with what felt like three hundred times as many kids (though it was probably closer to ten).
They surrounded her in the hallway, sweeping her along with them as they surged toward their lockers, laughing and shouting.
“Excuse me.” She tried to push her way across the hall. “Um, can I get through? I’ve got to—”
A basketball sailed over her head and smacked the wall. Some kids gasped. Others guffawed.
“Watch it,” someone warned. “She’s around here somewhere.”
Everyone paused to glance over their shoulders, including Clara. But Mrs. Major, the KMS custodian, was nowhere in sight. Relieved, she continued on, picking up the pace but being careful not to break into a run. Mrs. Major’s Number One Rule—even more important than No Throwing Basketballs—was No Running in the Halls. And Mrs. Major was not to be disobeyed. Mrs. Major was even more intimidating than Wesley Ferris in a blazer.

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Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert

Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert

illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
also available: eBook Hardcover

Neil, “the flamboyant, irrepressible chef” (Kirkus Reviews), hits the road in his food truck and drives right into a new case in the sixth book in The Neil Flambé Capers, the culinary mystery series celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey calls “good fun.”

Neil has lost his beloved restaurant. Though he misses it dearly, he and his friend Larry are headed on a new adventure. They are travelling to the Salsa Verde ranch in Arizona with their new food truck to participate in the legendary food truck …

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Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert CHAPTER ONE BORDER CROSS
Neil could see the look of shock on the border guard’s face before they reached the inspection booth.

“This is not going to go well,” Neil muttered. Larry slammed on the brakes, which let out an earsplitting squeal with a side order of blue smoke and a soupçon of burning rubber. Neil’s head whipped forward, then snapped back.

“On the contrary, it’s going AWESOME!” Larry said.

Neil caught a glimpse of the guard through Larry’s window. She had her eyes closed and her hands clapped tightly over her ears. She was frowning.

Larry turned off the ignition, let out a giant “WHOOP!” and began playing an imaginary drum solo on the steering wheel.

The guard coughed and waved the smoke away. She leaned out of her kiosk, taking in the length and height of the strange vehicle that had just appeared in front of her.

She gave her head a bewildered shake.

Larry smiled and winked at Neil. “I think she’s impressed with the FrankenWagon.”


The FrankenWagon was the new Flambé food truck, and Neil hated it. It was a hybrid in the same way chicken-chocolate ice cream is a hybrid. It was welded together from an old Volkswagen van at the front and a silver Airstream trailer at the back. There was a visible welding line that ran around the entire cab, like a scar, and Neil was sure it was going to split apart every time they turned a corner.

The guard narrowed her eyes and growled.

“I don’t think ‘impressed’ is the right word,” Neil said, secretly wishing that border guards had their kiosks on the passenger side.

“Open the window!” the woman bellowed.

Larry smiled and pointed his finger in the air in the universal sign for wait a second.


Larry nodded. Neil watched as Larry used an electric mixer to quickly roll down the window. He’d had to lean down to plug the mixer into the makeshift socket he’d installed in the dashboard, and it looked very suspicious, Neil realized, like maybe Larry was hiding something quickly at his feet.

The window lowered slowly, slowly, and Neil was sure he saw the guard reach for her weapon.

“Where are your hands?” the guard demanded.

Larry raised them, still holding the mixer.

“Pretty sweet, eh?” he said. “I made that myself after the original handle broke off.”

She frowned. A bead of sweat ran down Neil’s forehead.

“Passports,” said the guard.

Larry leaned on the door frame. “No worries. My cousin will just fetch them from yonder glove compartment. Speaking of fetching . . . may I get a name to put to the lovely face and oh-so-fetching uniform?”

The guard stayed stone-faced. Neil had seen Larry’s charm work on all sorts of people, but the border guard seemed immune.

Neil grabbed the passports and leaned past Larry to hand them to the woman.

She snatched them from his hands.

“Dolores?” Larry asked.

She ignored him and stared at the passport photos.


“Where are you heading?” she said, gliding the passports under some kind of scanner. Larry’s passport set off a series of beeps, and the guard’s eyes grew wide as she gazed at her computer screen.

“That depends, Marilyn?”


“Arizona!” Neil yelled, squeezing his head through Larry’s window. “We’re heading down to Arizona for a couple of weeks for a food convention.”

“The Broiling Man Festival. Heard of it?” Larry said, smiling.

“In this?” She snorted, her professional demeanor momentarily broken by disbelief. “Good luck.”

“So we’re clear to go?” Larry said.

She went back to staring at her beeping computer screen.

Neil wanted to slide down his seat and disappear through the floor of the FrankenWagon. Something, he thought sadly, that was probably all too possible. Larry had already warned him against moving the foot carpets.

The interrogation continued.

The guard asked if the FrankenWagon was legal. Larry responded with a thumbs-up. “Legal and awesome!” Neil banged his forehead on the dashboard.

“Can you prove it?” she said.

“You want to take it for a spin?”

She growled.

Neil quickly grabbed the permits and registration for the vehicle from the glove compartment and lunged past Larry, who was still trying to make googly eyes at the guard.

She asked if they had a visa to work in the States, since this was “allegedly a food truck.”

“Is it really work when cooking is your passion?” Larry said, leaning his head further out the window.

Neil scrambled to pass over the official invitation to the festival.

All this time, the computer continued to beep.

Larry began to sing the song “Home on the Range” to the beat, doing strange robot motions with his arms.

“I know,” Larry said, his arms rotating. “I’ll call you DoloroLynPetunia.”

DoloroLynPetunia had had enough. She handed them back the passports and ordered them to go to a large building to their left.

“Did we win something?” Larry asked.

Neil smacked his face into his palm.

DoloroLynPetunia pointed with more force.

“Is that where we claim the prize?” Larry beamed, turning the key and firing up the FrankenWagon.

DoloroLynPetunia responded with one more emphatic point of her finger toward the building. “Secondary inspection. Now.”

Neil foresaw doom.

If they were lucky, they’d only be trapped at the border for a few hours.

If they were unlucky, they’d be sent packing back home and told not to come back, possibly forever.

Neil lowered his head into his hands and moaned.

“Oh, give me a home where the cantaloupes roam!” Larry sang as he happily steered the truck toward the secondary inspection building.

Maybe if Neil could talk to the officer first, if he could explain that Larry was odd, but safe. He put his hand on the door handle and prepared to leap out as soon as they parked.

A large man pointed to a parking space in front of the building and then held up his hand in a stop sign as Larry flew into the spot.

Neil was out in a flash and ran to the front of the truck first. He realized immediately that rushing a border officer, even with the best of intentions, was not a good idea.

The officer reached for his gun and yelled, “HALT!”

Neil screeched to a stop. The officer looked Neil up and down and frowned.

“It’s a bit early for Halloween, isn’t it?” he said.

Neil was wearing his chef’s outfit. It had been the only clean thing in his room when they’d left that morning.

Neil heard a click as Larry opened his door and stepped out. Neil winced.

A flippered foot gingerly felt for the ground.

The guard’s eyes grew wide.

Something resembling a shaggy blond dog had stepped out of the driver’s-side door. It was wearing scuba gear.

The guard glanced back and forth from the redhead in the chef outfit to the goofball in scuba gear and controlled his jaw muscles enough to utter one word.


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A World Below

A World Below

also available: Hardcover Paperback

A swift-paced survival tale that’s a cool blend of Lord of the Flies and Journey to the Center of the Earth.” —School Library Journal

“This richly imaginative field trip gone bad or amazing—depending on how you look at it—is a sharp meditation on the seemingly universal difficulties of being young, smart, and uncertain.” —BCCB

A class field trips turns into an underground quest for survival in the latest middle grade novel from the author of Edgar Award winner OCDaniel.

Mr …

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A detective story with as many laughs as there are twists and turns, from award-winning author Ted Staunton!

In the beginning, it was simple: I wanted to be a detective, and I needed something to detect . . .

Thirteen-year-old Duncan lives with his unconventional bohemian aunt. She's determined to give him an expensive private education, even though Duncan isn't particularly interested in school. He wants to be a detective like the ones in the World's Best 100 Detective Stories, which he reads w …

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The Missing Dog Is Spotted

The Missing Dog Is Spotted

also available: Paperback eBook

Trevor Tower doesn’t worry about being short until he is assigned dog-walking duty with Loyola Louden, the tallest person in his class. But the dogs are a wonderful distraction, and even before Trevor and Loyola vow to solve the mystery of a missing spotted dog, they are becoming good friends.

In this standalone prequel to the acclaimed novel The Spotted Dog Last Seen—a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing (2013)—Jessica Scott Kerrin gives readers another mystery to solve a …

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Mystery in the Frozen Lands

Mystery in the Frozen Lands

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On July 2, 1857, 14-year-old Peter Griffin and twenty-five other men climbed aboard the refitted yacht, FOX, and set sail for the frozen lands of the Arctic sea. Their mission? To find out, once and for all, what had really happened to Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128 men.

Twelve years earlier, Sir John had sailed from England to complete the search for the Northwest passage through the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. Mysteriously, Franklin and his whole expedition had disappeared without a tra …

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Bone Deep

Bone Deep

A Peggy Henderson Adventure
also available: Paperback

An expedition to investigate an old sunken ship teaches Peggy lessons about herself.
When archaeologists discover a two-hundred-year-old shipwreck, Peggy Henderson decides she’ll do whatever it takes to take part in the expedition. But first she needs to convince her mom to let her go, and to pay for scuba diving lessons. To complicate matters even more, Peggy’s Great Aunt Beatrix comes to stay, and she’s bent on changing Peggy from a twelve-year-old adventure-seeking tomboy to a proper y …

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Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!

Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!

Almost Royalty!
also available: eBook

Literature’s most endearing rabbits are back in this sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! While the Bunnys' human friend, Madeline, worries about saving money for college, Mrs. Bunny is more concerned about how to become a queen.

Unexpectedly, Madeline’s family inherits a sweet shop (candy store!) in England, and it looks for a while as if everyone’s problems are solved. England proves to be full of eccentric characters, strange customs, and even royalty — but holdi …

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