A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Positive messages of friendship, trust, and building confidence. Believe in yourself. Be kind and friendly.
Positive Role Models
Olive is a fun, intelligent, and quick-thinking lead character who doubts her ability to make friends and achieve. So when she does both, it feels good to see her come into her own and believe in herself. Her friends invariably show support and encouragement throughout, and they all show great teamwork and courage.
The main character is Chinese American, and the supporting cast include White, Black, Middle East and North African, and Asian American characters. The main characters are also "artsy" and "alternative" kids, some without typical family structures.
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Violence & Scariness
Only some mild violence and dangerous situations. There are a few fights that involve some punching, kicking, and throwing, but most of these wrap up quickly and with the opponents subdued without much harm (they get wrapped up in rope or fall over from "sleepy spray" or run away altogether). Some "weapons" are mentioned but aren't used. A torpedo heads for a boat but is deterred at the last minute. A girl almost drowns but is saved.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man acts "smitten" with another person and brings her flowers.
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Language includes: "dork," "loser," "poopy," and "bully."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Kids use a "sleepy spray" that make anyone suddenly fall asleep if they get sprayed with it. A woman has a candy cigarette in her mouth and says that she's "trying to quit."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the middle grade mystery adventure novel The Misfits #1: A Royal Conundrum is by Newbery Honoree Lisa Yee (Maizy Chen's Last Chance) with art by National Book Award winner and Caldecott medalist Dan Santat (A First Time for Everything). Misfit and 12-year-old Olive Cobin Zang has just started at a new school where her and her new friends are secretly assigned to a clandestine crime-fighting agency. There is a little bit of violence, but it is very mild and over quickly whenever it starts. Some fights break out and some punches and kicks are thrown, but the opponents are always stopped without much harm. A torpedo threatens a boat, but everyone is evacuated, and the torpedo heads off course at the last minute. Various people steal jewels and some cats, a girl dangerously hangs upside down from a helicopter, and a girl almost drowns before being saved. Language includes, "dork," "loser," "bully," and "poopy." No drugs or drinking, though the kids use a "sleepy spray" that makes anyone suddenly fall asleep if they get sprayed with it.
Is It Any Good?
This middle grade mystery adventure novel reads quickly and is a blast to get through. The main characters in The Misfits #1: A Royal Conundrum are fun to get to know, and main character Olive Zang is a strong Asian American girl lead. While some might feel that the supporting cast could have received more individual attention, backstory, and moments to shine, the group is still entertaining, funny, and realistic as a bunch of misfit kids doing their best to save the day. They each have particular skills, talents, areas of expertise, and unique characteristics, and they bounce off Olive in fun ways along their adventures. Hopefully author Lisa Yee explores the other characters more deeply in future installments. The mystery takes a minute to get going, but once it does, it's difficult to stop reading until the final reveals. The conclusion satisfyingly wraps up all the logical questions of the mystery and as everything comes barreling toward the chaotic finale, it is rewarding to see Olive and her friends win the day. Dan Santat's black and white pencil illustrations are alive with motion and expressiveness and help bring the text alive for readers. Additional twists even beyond the ending will entice readers to come back for the next book in the series.
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.