Though this book’s target audience may be marketed for 8-12 year olds, it is a beautifully developed story which hosts a profoundly deep message for any age to read and enjoy. At first, I must admit that I was a little unsure on how I was going to like it, but as the story progressed, I found myself losing track of time and becoming engrossed within the three main characters from which the story line is told. Like a narrator of a theatrical performance, Al helps to fill in the details as her own life’s story begins to take on a twist you may or may not see coming, as a little boy unknowingly unearths a major secret.
Evan is about to embark on the terrifying transition from being a fifth grader to being a middle schooler at a new building, with different teachers and more kids. During the last week of attending elementary school, a free little library pops up overnight with an old orange cat to guard the books within the homemade structure. He pulls the two smallest books from the shelf and later realizes something peculiar about them. One of them has his dad’s name written on the circulation card from when the old library burned down years before he was born. Not only that, but all the cards say they were due the night of the fatal fire.
While Evan and his best friend, Rafe, begin their investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the tragic event, the town’s reception to the new little library is better than Al had expected. Much to the satisfaction of Mortimer, the orange cat, more books are appearing by the day with even more visitors taking and leaving a book under his careful watch. But when Al, Mortimer, and Evan cross paths, their journey will change them forever. Who was Ms. Scoggin and Mr. Brock? Why do the mice call Mortimer “Six-Toed Grouch?” What does Al stand for? Did a famous writer used to live in Evan’s hometown? And most importantly…who started the fire twenty years ago?
Personally, I would consider this work alongside that of Natalie Babbitt, one of my favorite writers and one who was skilled at weaving fun tales in with deeper meaning. From me, that is one of the highest compliments I can bestow upon a book. I hope that you will take a chance to help Evan figure out How to Write a Mystery Novel, and perhaps meet a few ghosts while you’re at it.
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