The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck

Common Sense Media says

Funny, intriguing mystery of school's hidden treasure.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Throughout The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck there are references to various historical figures who may or may not be integral to solving the mystery of Maria Tutweiler's Treasure, including Homer, Picasso, Shakespeare, poets John Keats and Emily Dickinson, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, artist Henry Moore, designer Charles Eames, and others. Readers learn tidbits about some of them, but the information is not presented in a pedantic way.

Positive messages

Two heads are better than one: You can accomplish great things if you work together. 

Positive role models

Protagonists Bud and Laurie demonstrate what can be accomplished through ingenuity and tireless dedication to a goal. The fact that they use fibbing and decepetion to attain some of their goals is less than admirable, however. Even though they are very different types of people, Laurie and Bud learn to work together to try to solve the mystery.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

There's no sexual chemistry between the boy and girl at the center of the story -- they're just friends. 

Language

No swearing, but some crude insults ("butt-kisser," "brown-nosing") and the expression  "scaring the crap out of." There are also references to characters "cursing loudly" and "muttering curse words under her breath." 

Consumerism

Scant mentions of Google, Skittles candy, Post-it notes, the QVC shopping network and a Casio keyboard.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck is an amusing mystery about a pair of mismatched sixth graders who become obsessed with solving a puzzle that has vexed students and teachers at their school, Tuckernuck Hall, for decades. The way they go about finding and understanding clues involves a considerable amount of mild fibbing, deceit, misleading and rule-breaking, yet readers root for Bud and Laurie because the impediments to their quest cannot be overcome through conventional methods. And they're both clearly good kids. Subplots portray sometimes difficult relationships between students, between kids and parents, and kids and teachers, but most of it's played for laughs. The book also has a handful of evocative black-and-white full-page illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo.

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What's the story?

Sixth graders Laurie and Bud are not happy as the school year begins at venerable Tuckernuck Hall. Laurie is desperate to transfer to Hamilton School, where her best friend Kimmy goes, and Bud is an outcast loner whose father expects him to study 24/7 so Bud can eventually get into an Ivy League college. They are thrown together in school when they're assigned to be classroom gerbil monitors, but this unlikely duo quickly band together when they stumble upon a clue to a treasure that was supposedly hidden 80 years ago by the school's first principal, Maria Tutweiler. Laurie and Bud use a combination of smarts, ingenuity, luck and a lot of subterfuge as they search for clues around the old building. Both struggle to fit in at their new school, with its unfamiliar rooms and hallways and occasionally eccentric teachers and administrators. Is there a treasure at all? Can Bud and Laurie find it before the school is razed by the wrecking ball? It's a race against the clock!   

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Author Emily Fairlie is very good at getting into the minds of the sixth graders at the center of the story and unspooling the mystery through their eyes. The narrative is regularly interrupted by a series of mental lists about people and situations in the book, most of them by "Laurie Madison, grade six," but some by other characters. For example, when Laurie and Bud meet an elderly teacher they hope will provide information to help them solve the puzzle, we're treated to "Miss Lucille's Daily Old Person checklist as imagined by Laurie... : 1. Ancient furry cardingan--check; 2. Puffy salon hairdo--check; 3. Orthopedic nurse type-shoes--check; 4. Paper-dry hands--check," and so on. There are also reproductions of notes, emails, and phone messages connected to the school's administration, parents, teachers and other students, which cleverly advance the story and tell readers more about the motivations of different characters. 

Although The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck is a contemporary tale with modern references (and attitudes of the students), there's something slightly retro about the story, the setting and the puzzle at its heart -- this could almost be a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mystery, except those classic series were free of cynicism and snark. Still, this is entertaining and decidely G-rated fare that should keep middle grade readers guessing and chuckling until the very end.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about mysteries and why they're so popular. What are some favorites that you've you read or seen on TV? How does The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck compare?

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  • How do Laurie and Bud use modern technology to help them solve the mystery?

  • Do you think it's OK for Bud and Laurie to mislead their parents and friends as they search for clues to the puzzle? 

Book details

Author:Emily Fairlie
Illustrator:Antonio Javier Caparo
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date:September 25, 2012
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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