"The four protagonists are distinctly drawn. . . .The Egyptology element is intriguing and informative, with plenty of detail for Egypt enthusiasts. . . . Overall, Joseph has written a fine first volume with plenty of good backstory and clear series potential. A well-developed mystery in which young detectives have fun while saving the day." --Kirkus Reviews
"This story makes you feel like you are there. I love how it is written." --Liam, 5th grader from Macungie, Pennsylvania
"I rarely write reviews, but . . . as a child psychologist, I appreciate child literary characters who are both relatable and good role models. . . . I like that the kids are polite and do school work and chores. . . . the Botanic Hill neighborhood was a nice haven for kids' imaginations. . . . I like the way adults and kids interact. . . . " --N. Christine
"Sherrill Joseph has created characters so lovable and interesting that readers can't help but feel like they are personal friends. . . . the lessons they learn extend far beyond an Egyptian artifact. This is a story of friendship and determination that will keep kids glued until the end." --Sam Ashkenas, Author of The Sammy Dragon Series
"Once you enter the world of the Botanic Hill detectives, you'll be engaged, enlightened, and entranced. Readers will hungrily turn pages until the mystery is solved and be fascinated by the Egyptian history the author clevery weaves into this captivating story." --R.D.Kardon, Author of Flygirl
"Step aside Nancy Drew. There's a new crime solving squad in town! LOVED this book! Solid and endearing characters. A great, wholesome mystery with ancient Egypt overtones. A page turning fun read for all ages. As many twists and turns as an Egyptian cobra! Looking forward to the next Botanic Hill installment." --Sharon L.
"This was a fun and easy midde grade read. The four kids who make up the Botanic Hill Detectives are a very diverse group. So you not only learn about Egyptian Mythology in this story; you learn about the other cultures of these kids. . . . kids will learn and not even realize that they are learning." --Mary
". . . In this new series four best friends love solving mystereies together and learn a little about Egyptian history and reptiles. . . . fun facts kids will learn are: Hawaii has no snakes. Van Gogh had synesthesia. Egyptians had a cobra goddess named Wadjet. Komodo dragons have venom sacs in their mouth. At the end is a Hawaiian dictionary." --CM
A quartet of tweens investigates a theft after the death of a beloved Egyptologist in this middle-grade series starter.
Twins Lexi and Lanny Wyatt and their friends Moki Kalani and Rani Kumar have developed a reputation for solving mysteries in their hometown of Botanic Hill, California. During a visit with one of their neighbors, the recently widowed Mrs. Thornsley, the four find out that her late husband, an Egyptologist colleague of Lanny and Lexi’s parents, was behaving oddly before his death. The young amateur detectives are certain that he had nothing to do with the recent theft of an ancient Egyptian urn from a local research center, of which he’d been accused, so they set out to solve the mystery. Their investigation takes them all over town, to local businesses, zoos, and labs, and they encounter plenty of real, if short-lived, danger along the way. They evade a masked stranger, for example, and meet other suspicious people whose actions make it clear that the kids are indeed investigating a serious crime. The investigators leave the actual law enforcement to the police—with whom they have a special relationship, as Moki’s father is a sergeant—but the kids are the ones who figure out the true circumstances of the urn’s disappearance and save Dr. Thornsley’s reputation. The book ties up various loose ends in its closing pages, but the narrator makes it clear that there will be more adventures in store for the young sleuths. Debut author Joseph has clearly put a great deal of thought into developing the book’s setting, and quirky details, such as the layout of Botanic Hill’s streets—there are 26 east-west streets, all named, in alphabetical order, for plants—give it vibrancy. The four protagonists are distinctly drawn, and Rani’s synesthesia—a condition that Joseph shares with her character, as explained in an author’s note—is presented as noteworthy without defining her. Moki’s Hawaiian heritage is handled less fluidly, however, as his ethnicity is highlighted many times over the course of the text. Secondary characters are also well developed—particularly Bruce Wilding, the twins’ tutor and grudging chauffeur. The dialogue sometimes feels forced; Lanny and Moki excessively call each other “bro,” for instance, and at one point, the villain says, “You kids, you think you’re so smart.” The omniscient narrator also has a taste for melodrama: “She was instantly aware that, to others, her husband might look guilty. But never a doubt entered her mind. She knew her husband could never have had anything to do with this atrocity.” The mystery, however, is solid, with plenty of twists and red herrings that will allow readers to match wits with the Botanic Hill Detective Agency. The Egyptology element is intriguing and informative, with plenty of detail for Egypt enthusiasts (natron and cobra venom each play a role in the mystery). Overall, Joseph has written a fine first volume with plenty of good backstory and clear series potential.
A well-developed mystery in which young detectives have fun while saving the day.