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THE RAVEN CLUB
By Alexander Simmons and William McCay
Sleuth/Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2006 ($10.99)
Ages 9 and up
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Archie Wiggins made a mistake, and because of that he gets a terrible beating from the other members of the Baker Street Irregulars and is thrown out of the club. He is saved by the timely interruption of Owens, another street urchin with a mother from the West Indies whose English father died in Egypt in the service of Her Majestyís Army. Archie is heartsick with guilt, thinking his actions led to the death of his friend Tim Doolan. Timís younger brother Dooley holds him responsible too, but when it appears that their hero, the detective Sherlock Holmes, has been kidnapped, the boys work together to save him and stop a plot that will shake up the very British Empire if it succeeds. Jennie James, the daughter of Archieís motherís best friend, joins the boys in their quest. She may lack the fighting skills they have, but she has one valuable skill they donít -- she can read.
The story takes the reader into the depths of the East End in Victorian London, as the children scamper over rooftops, hide out in ancient abandoned buildings, and brave the dangers of the wharves to save their mentor. It is entertaining and interesting. I do have one concern. The book is an historical mystery, set in London in the later years of Queen Victoriaís reign. While I know something about this time, the target audience for the book may not, and they may also not know who Sherlock Holmes was and why he is important to the time. Perhaps a brief prologue, or even a sentence or two, could make things a bit more clear to the younger readers about when and where the story is taking place. Even an opening sentence: London, June 1887, would be helpful.
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