24 February 2010

Just finished reading...

The Secret of the Bradford House by Albert A. Bell, Jr.

The second Steve and Kendra mystery is not due to be published until the beginning of April, but Dr. Bell was kind enough to send me an ARC to review, and then pass on to my nephew. He even signed it to him!

Steven Patterson and Kendra Jordan, now 11, have known each other since they were five. Living across the street makes it easy for the best friends to hang out together. Since Steve's mother works during the day, it also makes it easier for Kendra's mom to keep an eye on him. (Steve insists she's not his babysitter anymore!)

One of the rules Steve must follow to not have a sitter anymore is that he must accompany Kendra and her mother when they leave their house. That's why he's setting up his lawn chair outside the tennis court while Kendra has her lesson, and Mrs. Jordan runs errands. Before he can start to read, though, the previous student starts to talk to him. Her name is Rachel Mendoza, she's the same age as Steve and Kendra, and her family has recently moved into a house down the street from theirs.

While waiting for her mother to pick her up, Rachel asks Steve about the spooky-looking old house up on the hill. She can see the house from her bedroom window, she says, and spotted a light in the attic one night. When Steve informs her that no-one lives in the house at present, and it's being turned into a Bed and Breakfast Inn, she claims he's confirms her theory that she's seen a ghost.

Steve is not sure about the existence of ghosts, and when he relates the conversation to Kendra, she is determined to prove that they do not exist.

Steve and Kendra are under closer scrutiny than usual because of an adventure they had a few months earlier involving the discovery of an Underground Railroad tunnel a 150-year-old unsolved murder. Somehow, though, they still manage to sneak into the old Bradford House, as it is known, and uncover some secrets.

The addition of another female, who is slightly more emotionally and physically mature than they are, complicates Steve and Kendra's relationship in a very realistic way. Kendra is African-American, and it's refreshing (and also quite realistic, I think) that the kids are color-blind (although not all of the adults are).

Dr. Bell is a history professor, and a lot of facts about such diverse topics as baseball, Sherlock Holmes and World War I are slipped in as the kids investigate the mystery. Despite the fact that the mystery involves a ghost, it's not a scary story.

This was a gripping novel, even for this adult, and upper-elementary aged children should enjoy it.

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