THE HARLEM CHARADE by Natasha Tarpley, Scholastic, Jan. 31, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Art, mystery and adventure collide in The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley.
The Harlem Charade takes place, as the title suggests, in New York’s Harlem. The neighborhood is home to people from all cultures and all walks of life. Jin has spent her whole life watching people pass by the window of her family’s bodega. She likes to hide behind the cooler and observe. Then one day, she notices a girl from her school leaving free MetroCards for unsuspecting individuals. Intrigued, Jin gets up the courage and asks if she can help.
All Alex wants to do is help people who are less fortunate than herself, but she can’t do that with Jin tagging along. Or can she? When the two cross paths with Elvin, who was forced to live on the streets after his grandfather was attacked, everything changes and a new purpose is discovered.
Jin, Alex and Elvin begin looking into who hurt Elvin’s grandfather, who has some secrets of his own. Soon the trio find themselves looking into an artist whose missing masterpieces are worth a fortune. Those paintings are worth enough to save the neighborhood from a development project that would house a ludicrous historic theme park. But it all depends on who finds those paintings first.
I live in a place that isn’t very diverse so it’s always fun for me to read books like The Harlem Charade. Natasha Tarpley brings Harlem to life with food for the senses. I immediately felt transported to a place that felt grounded and substantial. And her use of history and artists from numerous mediums adds weight to an already intriguing story.
Jin, Alex and Elvin are unique and perfectly paired. Their strengths and weaknesses lend to each other and the plot. The Harlem Charade is a fast-moving read with plenty of intrigue. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.
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