Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
Format read: ARC via publisher
So it was complete delight when I picked up The Curious Cat Spy Club, and I realized that Linda Joy Singleton had written a tale fitting that exact criteria. And best of all, it's also a funny and entertaining book, to boot.
Kelsey, Becca and Leo are a group of young friends, who meet by accident. After banding together to rescue some abandoned kittens, they decide to form a club devoted to helping animals through a variety of activities, including solving mysteries. And it just so happens, pets are now going missing around the city, and it's up to our intrepid trio to figure out what's gong on!
Singleton starts her book off with a bang - quite literally, as Kelsey and Becca try to chase down an escaping Zorse - and the book continues at a nice pace from then on out. As Kelsey, Becca and Leo team up to get to the bottom of disappearing pets around the city, they learn teamwork, how to rely on their own instincts, and how to take charage in difficult situations, including standing up for the rights of those who can't speak.
As the mystery progresses, Singleton is especially careful to balance youthful curiosity, with the practicality of the real world. While Kelsey, Becca and Leo go far to try and figure out where the animals are going, they also have adult figures whom they can reach out, in moments of difficulty.
Outside of the overarching mystery, Singleton has included some nice reflections on the challenges of making friends and communicating with family, especially when a person is shy. Kelsey is very honest in her reflections on not knowing why the more-popular Becca would want to be friends with her, and Singleton does a fine job of showing the eventual realization that Kelsey, Becca and Leo all have a lot to contribute to their friendship.
It's a great reminder to not judge a person by their external appearance, or how the middle school hierarchy may have ranked them, and it's a worthy lesson for readers of any age.
Of special note: Educators and parents should also be aware that Singleton has a subplot involving secondary characters breaking the law. It's handled in a very thoughtful manner, but younger readers will likely have questions on the hows and the whys of the situation.
All in all, this is engaging fun that is absolutely perfect for the younger middle reader in your life. Highly recommend.