FeaturedMiddle Grade

The Secret of the Snallygaster


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This is a cleverly designed, educational adventure that easily engages middle grade readers in a scavenger hunt around Washington, D.C.

The Lander siblings Tara and Neil love traveling the world with their parents. Whether their dad is giving a lecture or their mom is investigating local cuisine, there is no shortage of destinations for them to explore. This time, the Landers are in Washington, D.C., and they are looking forward to learning as much as they can about the vast history found in the capital of the United States. When they discover a mysterious letter hidden at the grave of Great Uncle Eugene, the children are given clues that guide them to notable landmarks around the city. It is up to the siblings to work together to fulfil their Great Uncle Eugene’s dying wish before time runs out.

This book is an excellent adventure story for middle grade readers. Succinct chapters and an accessible design keep readers engaged in the narrative while history and cultural information are easily absorbed through the cleverly executed delivery. Black and white illustrations are found throughout the book, offering both a visual respite for newly confident middle grade readers as well as comprehension support. Each moment flows seamlessly into the next, encouraging readers to progress steadily through the book.

Though the Lander family is of ambiguous origin, references to soccer as football suggest that they hail from somewhere outside of the United States. However, they are depicted as an upper-middle class, jet-setting family with fair skin and a neutral accent, so the narrative is widely accessible. Presented like a middle-grade version of The Da Vinci Code, each clue is generic enough to be initially obscure but ultimately leads to locations that guide readers through Washington D.C. Whether readers have visited this historic city or not, they will feel as though they have walked in the shoes of the Lander family by the end of this adventure.

To increase the educational component of this book, maps ranging in focus from the world in its entirety to the specific location of Washington, D.C. are found on both ends of the narrative. Several pages of facts and comparisons are included at the end of the book, further describing historic and cultural components of Washington, D.C. Part of a series of similar stories, this is a fabulous book for young readers with a desire to explore the wider world. This is a highly recommended addition to libraries for middle grade readers.

Reviewed by

I review books for kids, tweens, and teens and blog about them on my website. To date, I have over 500 published reviews. Sign up for my monthly newsletter at www.maryrlanni.com to get recommendations straight to your inbox! I primarily write reviews, but will create video reviews upon request.

Hello, Washington, DC!

About the author

Rishi Piparaiya is a former corporate executive and bestselling humour author. In 2019, he set out on a world trip to research over 55 cities for his Cities of Adventure series. A dusty suitcase in his Mumbai home holds degrees & certificates from Cornell, Univ. of Rochester, and Cambridge. view profile

Published on May 25, 2021

Published by

20000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by