A selection of art-inspired reads for tweens

image of girl with black hair and glasses in jean jacket giving thumbs up inside green circle. box underneath reads Miss Mahee's Booklist. light blue background around white.
Booklists for you

Hi everyone, I hope October is treating you all well. I’m actually in the middle of a life change of sorts. Nothing too major but a bit busy with all that life throws at you at times!! This week is a selection of reads that have titles with art-inspired adventures of sorts. I hope you enjoy this little booklist!!

This little list will take you on a journey across the world and have you chasing mysteries featuring several different media of art too!!

cover image of buildings in different colours. right side has building with several stories and ladders with windows. three kids on ladders and beside railing. large billboard on top of building on left with large blue letters reading Harlem Charade.
An engaging read

In The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarplay we meet three youngsters who have no choice but to join forces to investigate a mysterious attack. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time. Elvin’s living on Harlem’s cold, lonely streets. When Elvin’s grandfather is attacked, their digging leads them to an enigmatic artist whose missing masterpieces are worth a fortune. But if they don’t find the paintings soon, nothing in their beloved neighborhood will ever be the same. 

My review: A really cool story on art history!! I loved the New York City feel to this!! All three kids, Jin, Alex and Elvin make an awesome team of detectives as they race through Harlem on the search for missing artwork while being pursued by bad guys. The descriptions of Harlem and that community there are awesome. I really loved the inclusion of actual place names and facts about Harlem and the history of the amazing culture there. 

cover image on dark blue background. border has swirly patters and red flowers. bottom half white letters reading Midnight in the Piazza and image of book and turtle. top half image of girl in red dress holding torch onto painting of woman across large fountain.
An interesting read

Midnight in the piazza by Tiffany Parks and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander takes us all the way to Italy. Beatrice Archer loves history and when her father lands a job as the head of the history department at the American Academy in Rome she has no choice but to move with him. In Rome, she explores her new city as much as she can in between Italian lessons, gelato runs, and embarrassing attempts to make friends with the locals. But it isn’t until she hears talk of a strange neighbourhood legend that Beatrice perks up. A centuries-old unsolved mystery about the beautiful fountain outside her window? Sounds like fun! Before Beatrice has a chance to explore, though, she sees a dark figure emerge from the shadows of the square in the middle of the night – and steal the famous turtle sculptures that give the fountain its name! When no one believes her story, Beatrice knows that it’s up to her to solve the crime and restore the turtles to their rightful place. With the help of her new friend Marco, she navigates a world of unscrupulous ambassadors, tricky tutors, and international art thieves to unravel one of Roman history’s greatest dramas – before another priceless work of art is stolen!

My review: This was a really cool story of art history and mysterious shenanigans!! I enjoyed descriptions of Roman architecture and how Beatrice learned the language. I found this a quick paced read with some really well thought out characters and a storyline that flowed really well. This is a great choice for those who like their mystery tinged with art history!!

Chasing Vermeer in dark letters across top tapering to right. Blue Balliett with Brett Helquist letters across wooden board at bottom. girl in coat in middle and boy holding flashlight behind structure.
An interesting read

The classic title Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is my next selection. Filled with illustrations by Brett Helquist, this delightful art-infused mystery will have you gripped at every page!! When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no-one – neighbours, parents, teachers – is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?? Blue Balliett’s first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure and delivered as a work of art!!

My review: That last sentence is true on so many levels!! I found it fascinating, and keeping up with Petra and Calder as they deciphered each clue was at times challenging. Each clue unravelled the next step of the mystery. This fast paced and well written read will please the code-cracking and mystery crazy tweens out there!! Also, this is the first in the series of mysteries by Blue Balliett! I hope you get a chance to read them all!!

cover image of two kids on top of pieces of mosaic-looking things. one girl in blue dress with white apron the other with jeans and blue backpack. pink letters on top reads Joplin, wishing.
An art mystery with a twist…

This next one, Joplin, wishing, by Diane Stanley is a mixture of fantasy and family history. This involves a different type of artwork and a character quite out of the ordinary! Joplin had never met her famous literary superstar grandfather, Martin J. Camrath. The rumors claim he stopped publishing at the height of his fame. Something bad must have happened, but Joplin’s mother is silent on the subject. There are a lot of family secrets. When he dies, Joplin’s world is suddenly turned upside down. Paparazzi camp outside Joplin’s apartment, horrible stories about “Wildman Camrath” appear on the internet, and her mother slides into depression. Then there’s the mysterious cookie tin she finds in her grandfather’s bedroom, filled with fragments of an antique Dutch platter. She has it repaired and hangs it over her bed. The picture on the platter shows a beautiful landscape and an old-fashioned Dutch girl about her age, who seems as lonely as Joplin feels. She wishes that girl could be her friend. And pretty soon, like Alice, Joplin is tumbling down the rabbit holt into a strange and alarming sort of wonderland. As one surprise follows another and the impossible becomes read, Joplin and her friend Barrett must find the key that unlocks the very nature of time – and a life that hangs in the balance. 

My review: Wow!! This was an amazing, articulate and awesome read!! Magic, history, mystery and friendship is ripe in this tween read!! I loved all of the characters, even Leonard!! This story kept me gripped that I finished it in record time!! I truly loved the concept of the storyline in this read and enjoyed the acknowledgements to the author’s own mother at the end!! The school scenes were created expertly and the description of the restoration of the platter was awesome!! 

A group of paintings which have girl reading book suitcase egg house paints
Tween book on art history

This last title is one I have done before. Under the egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald tells a mystery that fans of Chasing Vermeer and From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler will enjoy it immensely!! Theodora Tenpenny is responsible for tending to the family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. When she discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, instead of being happy about it, Theo is quite wary of it. Her late grandfather had been a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Theo’s suspicions about the true value of the painting leads to doubts on her grandfather’s true identity. 

My review: A truly spine-tingling, fast-paced, and cool story!! The author’s own study of art history and vibrant writing brings art history alive in this lovely story. I really loved reading this story and enjoyed getting to know the formidable cast of characters. There were some funny episodes and sad ones mixed together in this story. On a more serious note, this story also talks of prisoners of war during the Second World War and the terrible atrocities that occurred there. I felt that this story showed their stories in the most touching and poignant light. A truly remarkable and profound read!!

Well, there you have a small selection of reads that have an art-inspired feel to them. If you have read any other titles similar to these, I’d love to hear from you.

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

six-grid box. top right image of two kids on pieces of blue mosaics with red letters in middle Joplin, Wishing. bottom right image of two kids inside room with strange art pieces. black letters across top reads Chasing Vermeer. bottom right image of girl in red dress holding flashlight at painting. blue background and white letters at bottom reads Midnight. middle two image above this. left most image has framed pictures with brown letters in middle reading Under the Egg. middle image of two buildings and blue letters in middle reading Harlem Charade. top left box has black cursive letters Teen Reads for Art Lovers inside grey star and blue background.
A selection of arty reads…

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