Recommended for ages 9-14
Seven year-old Maddie Reyes is a selective mute. She can talk up a storm around her mom, dad, and older sister, Sadina. She tells all of her secrets to Bella, her robotic cat. But get her outside of her family circle, and she cannot speak. Sadina, her older sister, protects her and takes care of her as much as she can, but she can’t be with Maddie all the time.
One night, Maddie discovers an intruder in the house – an intruder who knows about Maddie. When Maddie and Sadina’s mother is accused of a corporate crime, Sadina thinks her friend Rio is behind it, but Maddie knows the truth. And now, she’s not talking at all. To find out what Maddie knows, Sadina will have to team up with her friends and find a way to make Bella, the one friend that Maddie will still speak to, talk back to Maddie.
This book drew me in right away. I love there character diversity- let’s hear it for a Latina heroine!; I found it fascinating that Ms. Ellis made Maddie a selective mute, and how she worked that into the meat of the plot. The story’s pace will keep a middle grader’s attention, and there’s enough tension in the book to keep readers guessing and thinking overtime. This is a great book for discussion groups; there’s so much to cover here. From disabilities that aren’t readily visible to corporate espionage, to the reality of animating a robotic pet, this book would be a great collaborative reading assignment for English and Science classes.
There are frequent references to technology in the book – Maddie and Sadina’s mother is an engineer, working on a new cellphone battery; Sadina and her friends are very handy in the tech lab; Rio wants new design software – but I’m not sure that qualifies this as a STEM Mystery. It’s a good story with STEM references.
Evanleigh Davis’ illustrations bring a real innocence to Maddie’s character. Her large eyes, seemingly forever gazing upward, make her look small and bewildered. Every illustration is filled with character and adds another dimension to the storytelling.
I think this will be a good book to get on the shelves at my library this summer. It’s the first book in a new series, and anything to do with kids using technology to solve problems is a book I want to have at the kids’ fingertips.