Friday, May 8, 2015

Review: Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer

Title: Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit
Author: Octavia Spencer
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book Description (from back cover)

When Randi Rhodes moves to sleepy Deer Creek, she certainly isn't expecting the kinds of adventures she had in New York City. In the city she used her detective (and ninja) skills to solve mysteries. Nothing can compare to that.

But she finds that the small town's only hope for survival is the success of their Founders' Day Festival. And the time capsule that many people believe holds the town's treasure has gone missing.

So, along with her new best friend, D.C., Randi is determined to solve the case. Even if it means investigating in haunted cabins and facing mean old Angus McCarthy, prime suspect. The future of their whole town is at stake! Will these kids be able to save the day?

My Review

This is a book I received from the author at Book Expo America 2013, so once again, many many thanks to Ms. Spencer and BEA for the opportunity to review it. 

First, a little about my experience at BEA 2013 as it relates to this book. Ms. Spencer had the most awesome marketing campaign. Send a bunch of women out on the floors of the convention hall dressed as ninjas, and get people walking by to don their own ninja masks and take pictures. Brilliant!

But my 5/5 rating is not based on this experience, however fun it was. It's based on the fact that this is a really great, satisfying book for middle grade kids! 

The main character, Miranda "Randi" Rhodes, is someone you can care about. She has lost her mother, she thinks her father just doesn't understand her, and she's moving from New York City to a tiny town somewhere in Tennessee. She also happens to be a junior detective and a black belt in karate, which is kind of a fun combination. If you can't relate to her, I'm sure girls wish that they could be LIKE her. I also love the fact that, unbeknownst to her dad, she's been fighting crime and solving mysteries at her old home in New York City, all on her own.

If she didn't have enough trouble, when she arrives at her new town (a town she has visited often as a kid), she has to deal with a snotty girl who seems to have it in for her. Not a way to feel welcome in your new home, that's for sure. 

So there is lots of internal conflict for Randi in this story.

As for external conflict: not long after Randi arrives, she attends the Founders' Day Festival, where a time capsule, buried by the town's founders, is about to be opened. Legend has it that whatever is inside will save the town from it's slow decline. However, during a distraction at the opening ceremony, the time capsule is stolen. There is no shortage of suspects in this story. The ancestors of the founders don't get along with each other, so they have motives for taking the time capsule. There are also suspicious newcomers to the town.

The mystery part of the story is amazing. It's well-plotted. There are lots of red herrings. There are also lots of clues scattered about that, once you reach the end, fit together well enough that you could solve the mystery on your own (although I've never really been good at that myself). I also like the fact that Randi DOESN'T have all the answers, even though she is pretty bright and observant, and goes down the wrong path a few times in solving the case. She also has help from a cast of characters who are very well-developed and you wind up liking by the end, even the ones who appear to be suspects. She even gets to show off her ninja skills during the course of the story. There's plenty of action, a little spookiness, some real danger for Randi and her friends, and humor. And, some nice, heart-felt moments between Randi and her dad.

As an extra bonus, there are footnotes throughout the story linking it to Randi's "ninja tasks" (including how to cast footprints and how to conduct a stakeout), which is a fun way of bringing the reader into the story.

In short, this book has it all for middle graders (and for this kid at heart). :-)

Very highly recommended.

Now go out, find this book, read it, and give in to your inner ninja detective!

(Yes, that's me, the ninja detective wannabe in the middle of this picture.)

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