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The Harlem Charade

by Natasha Tarpley

Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
297 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-78387-3

Ages 9-12

The rich past and present of Harlem is central to this lively, Balliett-esque mystery featuring three diverse young detectives. When Korean American Jin first pairs with African American Alex for a school assignment to explore some dimension of Harlem history, she’s challenged by Alex’s brusque and secretive manner. The two unite over shared interest in the recent discovery of a painting by a Black woman activist artist of the 1960s. African American Elvin, who’s been living on his own after his grandfather’s recent attack and hospitalization, is drawn into their search for the woman’s other paintings—whereabouts unknown. The three 7th graders begin to unravel the intersecting paths of the recovered painting, the missing art, the attack on Elvin’s grandfather, and the plans of a shady councilman who wants to create Harlem World, a cultural amusement park that will severely impact the lives and livelihoods of many Harlem residents. Their connection deepens as they reveal private concerns: Alex is ashamed of her family’s wealth, Jin fears her grandparents’ bodega is threatened by the proposed amusement park, and Elvin worries about his ill mother. This satisfying mystery also illuminates controversy surrounding an actual Museum of Modern Art Exhibit on Harlem in the late 1960s and spotlights the timeless and timely question at the intersection of cultural identity and art: “who gets to tell our stories?” ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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