My 2 cents:
Middle readers will love Ben Zackheim's new series about an 8th grade super sleuth named Shirley Link. Hindered (I mean, assisted) by best buds, Wylie and Marie, Shirley tackles a mysterious theft at school in The Safe Case. Picture a middle-school Velma (minus Scooby Doo), add a little Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys with a wicked sense of humor, and you just about have it.
In The Hot Comic (second book in the series), Shirley and company confront a dangerous thief, and maybe discover a new ally. Shirley's powers of observation are staggering, and the dialogue is sharp and zippy. Zackheim's YA novels are short, easy-to-read, and will interest and engage both the advanced and reluctant reader. My 12-year-old daughter loved both books, and flew through the pages, partly because of lines like these:
“We do things just because it's always been that way. But we shouldn't. We should always question, always pry, and never, ever get so bored with life that we miss the unusual.” (The Hot Comic, p. 2)
Length: 83 pages and 81 pages
Worth Your Time? Yes, especially for ages 9-13.
Bonus: Readers will enjoy Robin Hoffman's illustrations and Shirley Link's “Brain Twisters” at the back of the book. For more info, go to: www.facebook.com/benjaminzackheim. Also, be sure to read a fascinating author/interview with Ben Zackheim in my next blog.