I’m going to review two of the eight books in the Museum Mysteries Series that have Amal on the cover: The Case of the Missing Museum Archives and The Case of the Stolen Space Suit. The series focuses on four characters of diverse backgrounds who have a parent that works in one of four Capital City museums. Amal Farah is Somali American and her dad works at the Museum of Air and Space, Raining Sam is Native American and loves the American History Museum his mom works at, Clementine Wim’s mom works at the Art Museum, and Wilson Kipper’s favorite is the Museum of Natural History. The kids solve mysteries and introduce the readers to real facts and tidbits of real information. The AR level is 4.0 and 4.1 respectively, but I feel like they really are on a 2nd-4th grade level. When a child is done with Ron Roy (A-Z Mysteries & Capital Mysteries) and Magic Treehouse, they are ready for these. Much like those series, readers are similarly introduced to new vocabulary, but not overwhelmed with back story, detail, explanation, or much character development.
In The Case of the Missing Archives, (the second in the Museum Mysteries Series), eleven-year-old Amal and her friends have to figure out who stole the plans for the German “Bat Wing” Plane, and fast. If they don’t Amal’s father, Dr. Ahmed Farah, a museum archivist, is going to lose his job. Luckily in 117 pages the kids suspect and rule out a “friend,” identify a mystery subject, and finally solve the case by piecing together the security guards clues and being perceptive. Along the way you learn a bit about the characters, but nothing substantial. You don’t feel a connection to the characters, and are only slightly annoyed when Clementine kind of takes over.
The second book where the Museum of Air and Space, and thus Amal are leading the plot is The Case of the Stolen Space Suit (#6 in the series). I didn’t like this book as much as the earlier one because while yes, I learned about Sally Ride and how women in space are often over looked, I felt like the culprit was let off the hook with little reprimand for stealing Sally Ride’s space suit. Once again the four kids come together to solve a mystery this time it involves two of the museums: Air and Space and American History Museum. There is a bit more blatant lying in this book, which is normal in this genre as the kids have to snoop around and not get caught, but they seem a little less apologetic this time around. The red herrings aren’t as believable, and the real culprit is only spotted by chance, no real sleuthing.
WHY I LIKE IT:
Obviously I like that a Muslim girl is included in this very diverse foursome. She wears hijab, has a muslim name, tucks her phone in her hijab to go hands free, and is of Somali heritage. Her father is educated and not over bearing or stereotypical, and her background is just detail. Her group of friends seem to appreciate each other’s cultures and talents as well as their passions and hobbies. The kids vary in age from 10 to 13 with two girls and two boys. The only lack of diversity is perhaps that they seem to all be middle class and fully able bodied. Faith, family structure, culture, all run the gambut.
There is no religious reference at all. The book mentions her scarf only as a hands free life saver, and we learn her favorite hijab is blue with little stars on it.
I like that all the books are full color about 120 pages. There is factual information at the begining and at the end. There is also a summary on each kid at the begining. The story concludes with a glossary, writing prompts, discussion questions, and information about the author and illustrator.
I love the covers.
There is lying, but the rest is clean.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I probably wouldn’t use this book as a book club selection because there isn’t really much to discuss. I would definitely have this series in the classroom or recommend it to other early chapter book readers. Like Brezenoff’s other series the book is satisfying in its simplicity and a good book to build interest in a variety of things while feeling accomplished at reading a book.