Recommended for ages 8-10
Minerva Mint: The Order of the Owls is the first book in a new middle-grade series about an eccentric young girl named Minerva Mint, her two friends, Thomasina Crowley and Ravi Kapoor, and the mysteries that the group solves together; the most important being to find Minerva’s parents.
Minerva was found, as an infant, in a bag in Victoria Station. She lives in Lizard Manor -a large, ramshackle mansion that has seen better days – with Mrs. Flopps, the station custodian who discovered Minerva. Minerva meets Ravi and Thomasina, and the three become fast friends. Thomasina shares Minerva’s adventurous spirit and Ravi, a bit more level-headed and fearful, comes along for the ride at first because of his crush on Thomasina. He grows into himself during the group’s first adventures, but I’m pretty sure we’ll still see him as the voice of reason in the group.
This first book establishes the characters and the underlying mystery that will permeate the series – who are Minerva’s parents, and why did they leave her as an infant? There are some clues in the bag Minerva was found in, and she tries to put the pieces together. Thomasina and Ravi are sworn to help her, but Minerva is no damsel in distress; she can handle after years of fending off various long lost “parents” who come to the home in search of the valuable real estate and imagined riches in Lizard Manor.
The story is fast-paced and light, perfect for a middle-grade read about friendship with some mystery thrown in. Minerva is a quirky, fun character that will appeal to girls who want to step outside the “girly” model. Thomasina – pretty, blonde, wealthy Thomasina – is an adventurous spirit and a friendly, outgoing girl, which is a relief if you’re tired of the seemingly obligatory mean girls popping up as dramatic foils. Ravi is a shy, fearful boy who allows himself to be drawn out by the two girls. The group’s valued friendship sends a good message to younger readers about sticking together.
Gabo Leon Bernstein’s black and white illustrations are adorable and add to the story, giving us characters to bond with and creepy, fun landscapes. His illustrations advance the plot and fire up the imagination.
I look forward to more Minerva Mint books, and luckily, there are a two in progress: Merlin’s Island and The Legend of Black Bart. The publishers website offers extras, including character profiles, a book trailer, and downloadable clues sheet and a secret club contract that readers can use for their own secret societies!