Corson’s breezy, black-and-white sketches are pleasing, but they don’t always accurately reflect the text. Fortunately, they do an excellent job of showing Sally, Andrew, and Henry’s bravery, especially when they find an unconscious man and save his life. Readers will also admire the children’s maturity as they quickly and rationally split responsibilities, such as traveling to other neighborhoods and interviewing suspects. The kind, understanding relationship between Sally and Andrew is enjoyable to read.
Thanks to a riveting plot leading up to a thrilling climax, readers will find it difficult to put down this book. Anyone drawn to American history will enjoy the idea of Revolutionary spies hiding messages in children’s toys. Hass doesn’t explicitly touch on racial issues, but the white Corbetts’ easy friendship with Henry, who’s black, subtly contrasts Virginia’s more open-minded present with the era in which the toys originated. A diverse cast of likable characters and a swift plot will leave young readers eager for the next Shockoe Slip Gang adventure.
Takeaway: Middle grade readers will love this fast-paced adventure with a touch of American history.
Great for fans of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Boxcar Children series, Avi’s Night Journeys.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+