Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill - Megan Frazer Blakemore

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill - Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Bloomsbury!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Hazel Kaplansky is a firm believer in the pursuit of knowledge and truth—and she also happens to love a good mystery. When suspicions swirl that a Russian spy has infiltrated her small town of Maple Hill, Vermont, amidst the fervor of Cold War era McCarthyism, Hazel knows it’s up to her to find a suspect… starting with Mr. Jones, the quietly suspicious grave digger. Plus she’s found a perfect sleuthing partner in Samuel Butler, the new boy in school with a few secrets of his own. But as Hazel and Samuel piece together clues from the past and present, the truth is suddenly not what they expected, and what they find reveals more about themselves and the people of their cozy little town than they could ever have imagined. (from Goodreads)

Honestly, I can admit that a comparison to Harriet the Spy is what made me immediately want to pick up The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. I loved Harriet (and Nancy Drew) as a child, and was obsessed with the book, so it's safe to say that I was hoping to fall in love with this heroine too.

While I didn't fall head over heels for it, The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill was, in fact, pretty good. It amused me to no end, even as I was shaking my head at Hazel and all her antics. It's definitely the type of novel that's really written for its audience (the younger set, aka middle graders), which didn't deter me from enjoying it after I'd adjusted my expectations a bit.

Hazel Kaplansky is both interesting and (slightly) irritating. I really liked that she was interested in ferreting out mysteries to solve, writing all the details and ideas that came to her in a notebook. (Unrelated, but it sounds like Hazel could be a writer in the future!) But the thing is, Hazel is also flawed in that she was prone to being judgmental and pretentious at times. I liked that these flaws made her feel realistic, but it also annoyed me more than a time or two!

Apart from Hazel herself, the plot of The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill is fairly straightforward. What you see in the summary up there is exactly what you'll find when you read the novel. It wasn't a mystery I personally got invested it, but I also didn't feel like it was terrible either. In fact, my stance on the mystery is that it's not even what this novel is really about!

Yes, I put it out there: the mystery is not the main point of this book, at least to me. Instead, what lingered with me after I finished was the lesson that it subtly infused -- not judging people based on a first impression. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill teaches this lesson subtly, and I appreciated it a whole lot more after this realization since I think it's one that most people should take to heart!

Clearly, I liked The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. It wasn't exactly what I'd expected, but that in no way meant it was a bad book at all! I liked the setting, was amused by the mystery at times, and really think the way that the "moral" was included was very clever. All in all, a very likable middle grade!

3 comments:

  1. I have this one on my Kindle and really enjoyed her book The Water Castle, so I'll be looking forward to reading this one soon! I love middle grade because it's not just about the plot but usually has some underlying lesson about life. Great review!

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  2. The Spy Catchers Of Maple Hill sounds super cute, I would read it, I think, now that I know what to expect!

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  3. What a cute cover! I like it when books have messages in them, but I don't think I will pick up this book anytime soon :)

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