Review of A Royal Conundrum

A Royal Conundrum A Royal Conundrum [Misfits]
by Lisa Yee; illus. by Dan Santat
Intermediate, Middle School    Random    288 pp.
1/24    9781984830296    $14.99
Library ed.  9781984830302    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781984830326    $8.99

In this series opener, twelve-year-old Olive Cobin Zang is a lonely homebody who feels invisible and uncool. She doesn’t play sports and is only good at things she thinks nobody else cares about: board games, trapeze, acrobatics, and tightrope walking. She loves Meggie & Her Fun Family comic books, which portray a lively family’s adventures and home-cooked meals—most unlike her own family. Her parents are always traveling for business, and now they have shipped her off to the Reforming Arts School—RASCH—near San Francisco. A former castle turned prison, the building is now a school (think Alcatraz meets Hogwarts) for the “artistically adventurous.” Among the other misfits Olive finds she’s a good fit, at least within the team of crime-fighting preteens assembled to thwart an expected jewel heist on campus. This reunion of Yee and Santat (Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally), rev. 9/09; Bobby the Brave (Sometimes), rev. 9/10) offers an entertaining mystery with good kids working together to defeat the bad guys and, in the process, finding their place in the world. Conversational prose, offbeat similes (“Emotions swirled like a smoothie in a blender”), and Santat’s black-and-white illustrations (final art not seen) add up to a madcap escapade featuring likable heroes and dastardly villains. Readers will look forward to further installments.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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