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The Owl Prowl Mystery
Diana Renn
Renn follows Trouble at Turtle Pond with this entertaining mystery featuring, once again, Miles and his Backyard Rangers group of friends—Pia, Luke, and Delaney—as they focus their passion for the environment on a local celebrity barred owl named Bella. When Miles’s dog, Chance, finds an owl pellet in the woods one day, Miles immediately shares it with the Rangers, kickstarting a fascinating foray into how they can protect the local owls nesting in Marsh Hollow. Coincidentally, Miles’s teacher, Ms. Rivera, is hosting a bird identification competition in class at the same time, giving Miles and his pals the perfect opportunity to put their birdwatching skills to the test.

Miles’s classroom contest is the perfect jumping off point for crucial lessons on honesty, healthy competition, and, of course, conservation, as Bella’s presence in Marsh Hollow draws large crowds, putting the town’s wildlife at risk by “disrupting [the] birds’ natural behaviors.” Miles’s desperation to win prompts him to lie about seeing the famous Bella, a choice that sparks unintended consequences for the group, and the Rangers’ problems with being bullied by classmates intensify the situation. Renn depicts those classic middle school hiccups remarkably well, allowing Miles and his friends to test the waters—and navigate some intense moments of conflict—while still empowering them to regroup for a dramatic, collaborative ending.

Perhaps most valuable is Renn’s gentle portrayal of Miles’s ADHD and how it affects his desire to fit in; the book addresses important ADHD-related concepts, including time blindness and coping skills beyond taking medication, delivering a realistic look at a disorder that’s often swept under the rug. Readers will quickly engage with the Rangers’ enthusiasm for nature, the environment, and the animals who exist within it, and the power of friendship goes a long way in helping the book’s main players find positive ways to save an important local species.

Takeaway: Group of friends have to work together to save local wildlife.

Comparable Titles: Amy Sarig King’s Me and Marvin Gardens, Jonathan Case’s Little Monarchs.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A