Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2016 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: James Ponti
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781481436304
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Twelve-year-old Florian Bates is having a rough day. He's been taken hostage by a Romanian crime ring, and he's quickly realizing that he should've paid more attention in the FBI's class on how to cope with hostage-taking situations. Fortunately, Florian is a master of T.O.A.S.T.-the Theory of All Small Things. Using this Sherlock Holmes-style deduction technique, Florian figures out not only how to deal with his captors, but also how to bring to justice the criminals responsible for stealing four valuable paintings from the National Gallery. While he waits for FBI agents to rescue him from captivity, Florian explains to the reader how he and his best friend, Margaret (the Watson to his Sherlock, except that she's smart and competent) have been using T.O.A.S.T. to trace the art heist since its inception. In the meantime, he and Margaret are exploring a second, more personal mystery-the identity of Margaret's birth parents.

Framed! is a clever middle-grade version of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and it delivers a similar form of escapist, page-turning thrill. Florian's narrative voice is funny and engaging, and his relationship with Margaret highlights some of his weaknesses and showcases Margaret's own intelligence and good sense. Because Margaret is drawn as such a solid, substantive character, the novel's handling of her adoption story feels condescending, as the other characters conspire against her gaining knowledge. Framed!

works better as the kind of mystery that is completely fluffy, rather than as the kind that asks readers to question substantive social issues. Fortunately, most of the time, it sticks to fluff, and provides a fun and satisfying read.

Naomi Lesley   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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