Classy Crooks Club

336p. S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481446372.
Gr 4–7—A summer month staying with her grandmother, who fusses about correct forks and thinks that sewing—but not soccer, and definitely not skateboarding—is a proper activity for a young lady doesn't sound like a lot of fun for 12-year-old AJ. But when her grandmother's bridge club turns out to actually be a top-secret thieving operation, AJ finds that she loves the excitement and adventure of joining their heists, especially when they rescue a pet bird from its neglectful owner. While AJ practices lock-picking and sneaking around in the dark, her soccer team provides dramas of its own: in an effort to impress a wealthy popular girl, AJ may have alienated her longtime best friend. Humor abounds throughout, and a cute college-age chauffeur adds a bit of tween-crush romance (Stanley has a girlfriend his own age, making the crush appropriately one-sided). The concluding heist, in which the grandmothers attempt to steal a painting, just misses confronting the increasingly morally dubious nature of the grandmothers' missions: a somewhat unexpected kidnapping and a bizarrely amateurish robbery mistake all but prevent AJ from actively having to choose between conflicting loyalties. But in the end, friendships are repaired and the crooks are finally caught…in a classy way, of course.
VERDICT A light and fun mix of friendship and adventure with a thoughtful core.

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