The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley [in Shelf Awareness]
Twelve-year-old Jin Yi records “interesting moments and details” in her memory notebook while watching customers shop in her Korean American family’s Harlem bodega: “[P]eople will tell you their stories in the way that they move, how their faces look, how they speak.” Observing turns to action when a girl Jin recognizes from history class leaves a subway fare card taped to a pickle jar with a Post-It note, Enjoy 1 Free Ride. Intrigued, Jin pursues the girl, Alex, and discovers that she’s been leaving free MetroCards across the city.
When Jin confronts Alex at school the next day, she grudgingly allows Jin to join her next do-good outing. The two girls stop a would-be thief who turns out to be a hungry boy who’s been living in a subway station ever since finding his unconscious grandfather in a local park. Elvin, also 12, needs to figure out who attacked his grandfather – and Jin and Alex become his unlikely allies. The trio’s quest to solve a crime points to a mystery almost half a century old that involves missing paintings, multiple generations and a much-needed resurgence of community activism.
Natasha Tarpley (I Love My Hair!) makes her middle-grade debut with a multi-layered, multi-cultural whodunit that emphasizes art as a powerful force for change while illuminating later 20th-century Harlem cultural history beyond the better-known Harlem Renaissance. (Helpful notes about “real events and locations” appear at book’s end.) Readers will discover a nimbly plotted, inclusively populated adventure, all the while enjoying the adrenaline rush of solving this Harlem Charade.
Discover: Three intrepid seventh graders from Harlem work together to solve a decades-old mystery in the art world – and manage to save their neighborhood, as well.
Readers: Middle Grade