This is the fourth children’s mystery I’ve read of the five nominated for this year’s Edgar Award. When I started reading it, I thought, “Let’s see–baseball, Italian Americans, and a mystery to find a hidden treasure–yep, sounds like my kind of book.”
Title: 13 Hangmen
Author: Art Corriveau
Age group: Middle Grade
Synopsis: Just before his thirteenth birthday, Tony DiMarco receives two unexpected gifts from his great uncle, Zio Angelo: a Red Sox baseball cap that may just have belonged to Ted Williams and an entire townhouse located in Boston’s historic North End. The house is left to Tony in Zio Angelo’s will, which requires that Tony sleep in the bedroom on the top floor. One morning, Tony awakens to discover another boy in the room with him. It’s the thirteen-year-old version of Zio Angelo who, through some mysterious portal, is able to inhabit the room at the same time as Tony as long as the Ted Williams cap remains on a shelf in the room. A neighbor accuses Tony’s dad of murdering Zio Angelo in order to inherit the house. This leads Tony on a series of adventures to determine what really caused Zio Angelo’s death and find a treasure that is reportedly hidden in the townhouse.
Does it pass the “Homeschool Mom Test“? I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but the “portal” that allows Tony to meet with the thirteen-year-old version of his great uncle also allows him to meet with other previous thirteen-year-old inhabitants of this historic townhouse. Because of that, Tony meets boys of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, including a runaway slave and a Jewish boy who encounters prejudice. Even from his own time period, Tony encounters a Wiccan girl and his father is a Buddhist, so there’s great diversity in this cast of characters. I know the mention of Wiccan practices would make some parents uneasy, but because the book has a lot to say about acceptance and prejudice, I think it’s worth parents taking a look at. This story could provide many “teachable moments” when discussed with children.
Overall, I think this is a well-crafted mystery, which might inspire some kids to learn more about the history of our country, especially within the city of Boston.
I still have one more Edgar nominee to read for the juvenile category: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo. I’m having problems finding a copy of it. None of the Barnes and Noble near me have the book in stock, and almost none of the libraries in my area have the book, and if they do have it, it’s already checked out. I could buy the Nook or Kindle version, but if I’m going to buy the book, I want a hard copy that I can donate to my classroom.