Monday, March 14, 2016

Middle Grade Fiction: The Book of Secrets


Title: The Book of Secrets (Mister Max #2)
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. 355 pages.
Source: Digital Library

Publisher's Summary:
In Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things, Max Starling proved that he is more than a detective, he’s a Solutioneer. His reputation for problem-solving has been spreading—and now even the mayor wants his help.

Someone is breaking windows and setting fires in the old city, but the shopkeepers won’t say a word about the culprits. Why are they keeping these thugs’ secrets? When the mayor begs for help, Max agrees to take the case, putting himself in grave danger. It’s a race to catch up with the vandals before they catch him.

Meanwhile, Max is protecting secrets of his own. His parents are still missing, and the cryptic messages he gets from them make it clear—it’s going to be up to Max to rescue them.

Can the Solutioneer handle cases this big?

My Review:
I reviewed the first book of this series (audio edition) a few weeks ago. You can tell I enjoyed it by how soon I hunted up Book Two! This time, I went for the ebook, and I greatly enjoyed having the illustrations (plus, some names became clearer to me, due to seeing them in writing).

Book Two did not disappoint. Max continues to use his wits to solve some challenging problems, sometimes aided, sometimes hindered, by his youth and his youthful ways of looking at things, as well as by his assistant, Pia, and his need to keep his own big secret about his missing parents.

The problems Max is trying to solve are getting bigger, now, and his personal stakes are higher than ever. But he's also having trouble holding onto his own secrets, and Voigt deftly leads Max and the reader to the conclusion that doing everything yourself isn't always possible, let alone a good plan. Max is learning the fine balance between the independence he so values and the interdependence that is the reality of life.

The story is fast-moving, with humor and excitement nicely blended, and the writing is excellent. The problem-solving aspect is a nice touch, as Max employs some approaches that an adult might not think of. I'll be ordering the 3rd book right away, to finish the story. I think I'll do that one in paper, just to round out the experience.

A great fun read for anyone from about age 9 up. Younger kids may enjoy it (and there's nothing in it they shouldn't read), but may find the writing level a bit above them.

Full Disclosure: I checked The Book of Secrets out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


  1. This sounds like a series my 9 year old son would love. It was a struggle getting him interested in learning to read, but thanks to great authors like Michael Dahl, he now loves books. I'm always on the hunt for books that will keep his love for books alive. I'll definitely be hunting these down.

    1. I'm guessing they would be perfect for a kid like that, and the books are in my library, so shouldn't be too hard to find anyway.


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