Key Hunters--The Mysterious Moonstone and The Spy's Secret, by Eric Luper

Key Hunters is a new series by Eric Luper that's a good choice for older elementary kids not yet ready for fantasy door stopper books.  The font size and spacing fits my sense of  "chapter books for young readers," and the plots are such as will be more pleasing to the young reader who has little experience with genre fiction, for whom mystery solving in historical times and spy foiling with lots of technology involved are still new fictional ground.  The first two books, The Case of the Mysterious Moonstone, and The Spy's Secret, just came out (Scholastic, April 26, 2016).

Cleo and Evan were very fond of their old school librarian, who was also fond of them, and encouraged them to enjoy the library.  She's been replaced (without saying goodbye) by a new librarian, a nasty piece of work, who wants the kids to sit and be quiet, and nothing else, when they are in the library.  One day Cleo and Evan happen to be in the library when they hear  the bad librarian muttering to herself, then crying out and disappearing.  She's gone through a hidden doorway, opened by a book in the literature section, and Cleo and Evan head off down the secret stairs to find out what's going one.  In the room below, there's a note from the good librarian, saying she's stuck in a book, but has left clues to be followed to find her.  The Case of the Mysterious Moonstone lies on a table, and when the kids open the book, they find themselves whirling into its 19th century world, where they are characters helping to solve the mystery of a missing gem.  The bad librarian is there too, in the role of a villain.

But though the moonstone mystery is solved, Cleo and Evan don't find the good librarian.  So they head into another book, The Spy's Secret, where they are spy kids with lots of gadgets, trying to foil the plot of the evil Viper who's plotting world domination from his underwater lair.  The bad librarian is also there a villain, but somewhat more ambiguously so than she was in the first book, which adds interest.  Once again, they don't find the good librarian, but perhaps they will in the third book, The Haunted Howl, coming in September.

If you are older than ten or so, you can skip these, but they are good ones for the target audience.  These are books I'd give to any fans of the A-Z mysteries, for instance (do kids these days still read those?).  The many cartoonish illustrations will help uncertain readers along, and the stories move briskly.  And of course they are good gateways to all the books for older kids out there in which the characters fall into the world of stories; for instance, a nice next step might be The Island of Dr. Libris, or Chris Colfer's Land of Stories series, though the later, in particular, is a perhaps a bit of a jump in terms of number of words....

Here's what I personally appreciated--Evan and Cleo work together as equal friendly partners, and as the cover shows, Evan's a kid of color, a fact that has no bearing on the plot.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. First, I have to admit, somewhat to my chagrin, that my youngest daughter was addicted to the A to Z Mysteries in 1st and 2nd grades. Not that they're terrible, but I was hoping to hook her on some better books (she's moved on to some on her own thankfully). At that age our oldest was addicted to the Magic Tree House, so it is what it is.

    More importantly, thank you for reviewing this series. I'll be teaching 3rd graders next year and I'm working on what books I want to share with them and having diverse characters is very important to me. This series looks wonderful.

  2. My second grader loves these books and she is reading it as well as my 4th grader. These are perfect for them. I have a son that loves them too!


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