My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bernice Takes a Plunge by Ann Harth
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This book is one part “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and one part “Nancy Drew” meets “Harriet the Spy.” I’m a little (cough cough) older than the intended audience for this book, and while I’ll dip my toes into some Young Adult reading reasonably often, it’s been a while since I read Middle-Grade fiction. Ms. Harth did NOT disappoint! If it’s all this good, I won’t mind at all reading books with my daughter (who I can’t wait to introduce Bernice to one day).

Bernice is a confident, curious, young detective who follows her instincts wherever they lead her. Since her best friend has chickenpox, Bernice is even freer to explore the mysteries of her small-Australian town than usual. Bernice’s hero, local move-star detective Crystal Bell’s home suffers a break-in, and Bernice is on the case – much to the chagrin of the local police, her mom, and the staff at Bell’s mansion.

Bernice is fearless. She is a strong, independent little girl, which we need more of in literature. But, as a mom, Bernice’s behavior would definitely spark some conversations about safe behavior.

The story kept me on the edge of my seat, and I needed to know how it was going to end. It was jam-packed with adventure, and I really didn’t notice any dull spots. Bernice was clever, courageous, and believable. She had the sort of invincible mentality that so many of the young do, but she also wasn’t magically a perfect detective – she got things wrong.

Harth appropriately scared me into thinking a character I liked was going to be the bad guy, but the twist cleared that person and revealed the culprit – who I had guessed, but not in a “this book is predictable” way. So, if you have a middle-grader in your life, get them this book. And, if you love stories filled with adventure and strong female characters (even if they’re young) maybe read it before you hand it over to them.

I received a free copy from the author in return for my honest review (and what a gift it was to meet Bernice!).

Content warning: Danger/Adventure, Unsupervised children, Perceived Bomb Threat, Prosthetics