Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit

 
Action-packed mystery teaches kids detective skills.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers are first exposed to a concept or an activity within the story and then are tasked with conducting their own experiment using instructions in the back of the book. Kids learn how to make a footprint caste, how to detect stains, and how to make yummy snacks while mirroring detective Randi Rhodes.

Positive messages

Although Randi sometimes has lapses in judgment that could possibly have dangerous consequences, the overall lessons of the book -- pursuing passions, staying true to friends, and standing up to bullies -- are great lessons for kids. By including a strong female lead in the action and mystery, the book breaks stereotypes without grandstanding.

Positive role models

Positive role models are plentiful in The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, with title character Randi Rhodes giving the right amount of positivity combined with spunk and smarts. Instances of bullying are handled in humane ways, and adults are present and nurturing and represent real authority without cartoonish overreach typical in media targeted to kids. The mutiracial, differently abled cast of characters offers a good model for diverse kids working together.

Violence & scariness

Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective has several scenes of martial arts fighting, mostly in self-defense. Additional scenes show both adults and children in danger, with adults attacking children and an elderly man. A man died in a cave-in and the death isn't shown, but the skeleton of the deceased is described.

Language

Minor name-calling ("freak" and "catfish"). One child is bullied because he has partial hearing loss. Though hurtful, the words are not racially or culturally insensitive.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, by Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, has several elements of danger wherein adults attempt to harm children. There's also reference to a possible murder. Though there's no graphic violence, parents may want to keep an eye out for any anxiety this may cause in younger, more sensitive readers. Also note that Randi is grieving the death of her mother, and she defends -- and befriends -- a kid who's bullied because he has partial hearing loss. 

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What's the story?

Randi Rhodes is her New York neighborhood's ace secret detective. She defends the helpless and bring criminals to justice until her father moves her to the family's vacation home down South. Still reeling from her mother's death, Randi is convinced she'll die of boredom in the small town -- that is, until new friends and a couple of mysteries land in her lap. A missing time capsule, a cat, and town treasure have Randi and her new friends vowing to solve the mystery and save the town from ruin.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

RANDI RHODES NINJA DETECTIVE: THE CASE OF THE TIME-CAPSULE BANDIT is an excellent book full of mystery, fun, and cool hands-on activities. In this, the first book in the Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective series, author Octavia Spencer sets the stage for interactive fun. After each chapter, readers are asked to practice the detective methods and use the tools shown within the story with easy-to-follow instructions and household ingredients.

It's not just the activities that hook readers. Spencer has created rich characters, snappy dialogue, and a fantastic mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end. Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective has action, puzzles, and a strong female lead yet doesn't fall into the girl-power trap that celebrates gender over accomplishments.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Randi Rhodes has trouble expressing her feelings over the death of her mother and spends much of the book very angry. How could Randi have shared her feelings with her father?

  • Randi uses all kinds of detective methods throughout the book. How do the tools Randi uses differ from those seen on television shows that involve mysteries? Do TV shows set an unrealistic idea of what it takes to solve crimes?

  • Randi finds her first friend in town after defending him from bullies. How can you help kids you see being bullied? Do you have trusted adults who can help you resolve bullying problems?

Book details

Authors:Octavia Spencer, Vivienne To
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Adventures, Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:October 15, 2013
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit was written by

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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; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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