A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
There's considerable discussion of police procedures, including how suspect sketches are created and surveillance techniques. The action is set partly in Manhattan's "Museum Mile," so there's information about some of the art found in different New York museums, as well as mentions a few artists, including Picasso and Monet, and descriptions of a couple of their pieces. At the end of the book, there's a two-page, step-by-step "How to Draw Faces" art lesson by "Eddie Red." Eddie also shares some of his knowledge of Spanish and German words.
More can be accomplished through teamwork than by working alone. It's gratifying to discover a special skill and then use it for a good cause. Don't be afraid to ask for help from adults. Attaining big goals often involves both perseverance and personal sacrifice.
Positive Role Models
Eddie is doggedly determined to solve the mystery at the center of the book and goes to great lengths to gather clues, using mostly his ingenuity and great powers of observation. Though he often gets frustrated by the behavior of various adults, or their unwillingness to listen to his ideas, he's unfailingly polite to those around him. On the negative side, he doesn't always follow the suggestions of his superiors, which often leads to trouble.
Violence & Scariness
The book begins with an episode in which our hero, Edmund, sees a man running out of an alley carrying a bloody knife after a scuffle of some sort. Later, Eddie is threatened, duct-taped to a drainpipe, and held at gunpoint by a criminal. In the same episode, a detective is shot near Eddie, who applies pressure to the bloody wound. Earlier, Eddie kicks the detective in the groin as part of his self-defense class (but that's mainly played for laughs). Eddie's also the victim of some mild taunting/bullying at school and at one point a confrontation with the bully gets physical.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Products & Purchases
Just a few product mentions: Google (used as a verb), Doritos, Hallmark, M&M's; iPod, Jell-O, Nike; also several New York museums are mentioned by name, as is The New York Times.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile is a taut, often funny mystery about an African-American sixth grader who becomes embroiled in a complex case involving art thieves. The police enlist his help after they discover he has a photographic memory and can draw perfect sketches of possible suspects. There's some violence, including one graphic shooting and Eddie being duct-taped to a drainpipe by a criminal, but it's a small part of the story. Eddie's also the victim of some mild taunting/bullying at school. The book does not talk down to its target audience; in fact, it includes a fair amount of complicated vocabulary, unexplained mentions of ADHD and OCD and the slang "meds," as well as discussions of artists and New York museums. Eddie's race does not factor into the story in any significant way, but it's notable because of the relative rarity of having the main character in this type of book be a person of color. The novel features a number of Eddie's sketches of characters (including himself and his father) and suspects -- engaging black-and-white full-page portraits by illustrator Marcos Calo -- as well as a couple of Manhattan street maps. This is the first book in the Eddie Red series.
Is It Any Good?
Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile is the first novel by Marcia Wells, and it's a zippy and engaging read, with plenty of humor and vivid characters. It also features wonderful sketches of different people in the story (supposedly by Eddie, but actually done by illustrator Marcos Calo) that really capture their personalities. The world of fine art and New York museums is perhaps a slightly odd choice as a setting for middle-grade novel, but Wells manages to make it seem quite interesting and exciting. Young readers will definitely learn a few things about art -- and the intricacies of police work -- along the way.
One complaint: The solution to one of the primary mysteries of the book is almost incomprehensible, even if you are chess fanatic. That's the only downer in an otherwise fine book.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.