By Jacqueline Davies
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $15.99, 192 pages
Jessie and Evan travel with their mother (who they strangely think of as Mrs. Treski) to see their grandmother in the hospital after a house fire and a bad fall. When they arrive, they find the house damaged much worse than expected. Clearly, this holiday season won’t be what they are used to. To top everything off, they find that Grandmother’s bell, the ringing of which is a New Year’s Eve tradition, has been stolen! Jessie meets a neighbor boy, Maxwell, who has odd habits, odd ways of moving, and difficulty communicating. While Evan works side-by-side with the man repairing the house, Jessie befriends Maxwell and decides they should become spies and find the bell thief. When Grandmother comes home, she is not herself. At times she doesn’t know who Evan is, and she makes poor choices that put her in danger. Jessie and Maxwell run into trouble when they spy on some “mean boys” in the neighborhood while looking for the bell.
“She didn’t look like his grandmother. She looked strange, with one arm missing inside her coat and the empty, flopping sleeve hanging like a dead fish. Her knitted cap was crooked on her head, and one strand of gray hair hung down and curled around her neck.”
This is a well-structured mystery that will engage young readers with the story while taking on difficult issues such as Alzheimer’s and autism. Sometimes the point of view is a bit confusing, but overall kids will like this book.
Reviwed by Rosi Hollinbeck