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The Scent of Something Sneaky by Gail Hedrick

 

THE SCENT OF SOMETHING SNEAKY
By Gail Hedrick
(Tumblehome Learning; $9.95, Ages 9-12)

The Scent of Something Sneaky book cover image

 

In The Smell of Something Sneaky, Emily Sanders, the small town heroine from Hedrick’s first middle grade novel, Something Stinks!, is back to solve another mystery, only this one’s a lot more dangerous. In this well-paced, satisfying sequel, Hedrick’s 14-year-old main character begins noticing suspicious incidents occurring at a North Caroline B & B owned by her friend Mary’s grandmother. While everyone around her thinks these incidents are unrelated, Emily can’t shake off the feeling they’re connected.

It’s summer break and peak season for the popular getaway, Baird’s Den, where Emily’s working alongside her friend to fill in during a temporary staff shortage. The action begins quickly when a guest gets hurt from a loose step board. But nails don’t just pop out and Emily begins to wonder if the nails she discovers nearby were deliberately removed. Her friend Mary thinks otherwise and remarks that just because Emily solved one crime doesn’t mean there’s anything sneaky going on this time around. It’s true that accidents do happen, but in this case it’s starting to look a lot like they’re being made to happen, and if so, why? A neighbor, and Baird’s Den helper, Alex, is more easily convinced than Mary, that something’s up when a septic tank begins to stink, then a swarm of bees make a hive on top of the house followed by an electrical fire in the B & B’s carriage house. Alex even tells Mary that Gigi, Mary’s grandma, had a fall down the cellar steps due to a faulty light bulb before the girls arrived in North Carolina. Yes, something’s surely amiss and Emily’s determined to get to the bottom of it. So, by presenting some convincing evidence, Emily recruits her pals to help get to the bottom of things and save Baird’s Den from a string of costly setbacks and possible closure. But the closer Emily’s sleuthing takes her to uncovering the culprit or culprits, the more at risk she puts herself and her friends.

Hedrick has woven in clues and several red herrings to keep budding tween detectives on their toes, my favorites being the “Audubon guy” who keeps appearing all over the place, and the overly cheerful “realtor girl.” There is a great cast of characters readers will enjoy getting to know including innkeeper extraordinaire Grandma Gigi, neighbor Alex Ortiz and his crafter mom, Mariella, Pete the Plumber, bee wrangler Barb Blackstone, shopkeeper Evan Moss of Mountain Artisans along with the ever changing list of B & B guests. It’s also much ado about all things olfactory in this middle grade mystery and not all of it is sneaky. I could smell the trees from Hedrick’s description of Baird’s Den situated near the edge of the woods where trails invited “hikers, bikers, and horses.” And then there’s lots about the cinnamon Gigi uses both in drinks and for special guests’ gifts as well as the enticing aroma of candles on display at Mountain Artisans handmade crafts store. In fact, scent even plays a role in detecting part of a crime scene!

The Scent of Something Sneaky makes for entertaining summer reading and may just set your mind wandering the next time you step foot in a craft store while on holiday.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Visit author Gail Hedrick’s website here.

Read Ronna’s review of Something Stinks! here.

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Something Stinks! by Gail Hedrick

Something Stinks! by Gail Hedrick is reviewed today by Ronna Mandel.

Something Stinky! by Gail Heddrick
Something Stinks! An award-winning STEM book for
middle graders from author Gail Hedrick, Tumblehome Learning, 2013.

Good things come in small packages or in this case, they come from small companies.  Tumblehome Learning out of Boston is a fairly new company that was “formed in 2010 by a group of dedicated STEM activists, writers, and software and curriculum developers.” Their goal is to foster the love of science and engineering in children through books and activity kits geared for ages 8 and up.  I strongly recommend you take a look at their site.

One of the books they’ve published, the NSTA *award-winning Something Stinks! (Tumblehome Learning, $7.95, ages 8-12) by Gail Hedrick, is an easy and entertaining read that will make kids look at rivers and water pollution in a whole new way. It may even prompt them to get more involved on a local level which is exactly why small companies like Tumblehome Learning cannot be overlooked.

What happens when a bunch of dead fish wash up along the Higdon River in a small Virginia town? At first, absolutely nothing. Yes, nothing!  And that lack of action on the part of the county inspector, along with a science project and new role as Assistant Editor for the school newspaper, prompts protagonist Emily Sanders to delve more deeply – deeply into the river that is, and the factories and other businesses that line its banks.

Emily Sanders is a seventh-grader experiencing typical seventh-grade growing pains revolving around a girlfriend, Leanne, who has begun buddying up with the rich girl, Cynthia Carver, a great dresser who gives “cool parties.” On top of that, the school’s pompous newspaper editor, suntanned Sam Wheeler, doesn’t put much credence into Emily’s theory that something fishy is going on in the Higdon River. It doesn’t help matters that Sam’s dating Cynthia Carver whose father runs the town’s biggest employer, Cayenne Textiles.

Abandoned by her best friend, Emily gradually embraces friendship overtures from quirky Mary, another school paper staffer. Together these two begin unravelling the mystery of why the dead fish keep turning up at certain times on Emily’s Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Joe’s property. What should be straightforward is anything but, and the girls find their attempts to discover the cause (pollution, lack of dissolved oxygen, wrong PH, weed killer or fertilizer) is frowned upon by community members and even thwarted at times.

Hedrick has seamlessly integrated info about how certain manufacturing processes involving water can cause pollution and kill river life including fish and turtles all the while keeping it interesting and well-paced. Emily’s investigations cause her to be teased by schoolmates, but she is a stalwart not easily deterred. Is Cayenne Textiles covering up something or could Emily possibly be wrong? Hedrick keeps the intrigue going until the very end making us wonder if Emily and her friends will succeed in their quest. I like how the storyline does not resort to a trite “happily ever after” ending with Emily and Leanne’s friendship being instantly resolved because that would have been too easy. Readers will appreciate the more realistic approach Hedrick’s taken and that will win her fans.

I approached this novel thinking that if it had to do with science it could not possibly hold my attention, but like Emily Sanders, I was surprised with what I discovered and happy I persevered! In other words, I’m glad I tested the Something Stinks! water.

*AWARD WINNING SCIENCE CONTENT: The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Committee) has selected “Something Stinks” as an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 for 2014 list, a cooperative project of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the Children’s Book Council.

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