Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book Review: Jamie and the Mystery Quilt by Vicki Berger Erwin (1987)

During a recent purge of old books from boxes that have been sitting in our garage, I stumbled upon this paperback which I bought from a used bookstore several years ago and never read. Jamie and the Mystery Quilt is the story of a young teen girl who lives with her widowed mom and younger sister in an old house filled with antiques. One day, while searching the attic for a costume her sister might be able to use for a school play, Jamie stumbles upon a quilt made by her great-grandmother which has been designed to look like a map of the house. When the quilt is stolen mysteriously from the back porch, Jamie is devastated and she begins to consider who might have taken it. Was it a random crime? Did her crush and tutoring student Kevin steal it for his mom's antique shop? Or is there something sinister about the real estate agent who keeps pestering her mom to sell the house? As Jamie works to narrow down her suspects, she also must figure out the reason the quilt would be so valuable to anyone outside of her family.

This straightforward mystery story is not the greatest work of literature, but I liked its wholesome approach to middle school boy/girl relationships, its focus on family, and the determination, resourcefulness and spunk of its main character. It seems like most mystery novels published for kids today are about large-scale events  - murders, kidnappings, disasters, and art heists - and less about regular kids solving problems that impact only their own small spheres of influence. I loved these little everyday mysteries as a kid, largely because they were not scary, and I could imagine my younger self reading and re-reading this book.

Alas, due to space constraints and the fact that we already have a number of mysteries on our shelves that we really want our kids to read as they get older, this book is going into the donation pile. Still, I'm glad I took the time to read it because it reminded me of how much I enjoy these short, pleasant novels of years past. Most contemporary middle grade novels are so long, and sometimes I just feel like reading a compact story that is short but satisfying. This one definitely fit that bill, and I'll probably read the author's other titles that are available from Open Library.

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