Harlem is full of history, street life and art, and it’s endangered by a city councilman who’d like to turn it into a theme park. A bit hard to imagine at first, but maybe not as crazy as it sounds. Jin, Alex and Elvin come from different backgrounds, but they (and some of their family members) will lose if the theme park succeeds, so they band together and start peeling back the layers of a decades-old mystery.
It’s a perfect combination of classic kids’ mystery, middle grade friendship, and a walk through a big city with a little bit of history thrown in. As the author notes, the people and some places are fictional, but there’s a lot about The Harlem Charade that rings true about big city life and kids who are becoming more independent.
What’s really wonderful about this book is the depiction of friendships, new and old. It’s hard making and keeping friends, and we’re all imperfect in some way. It’s not just Jin, Alex and Elvin who are working through lies of omission, hurt feelings, and moments of anger. The adults in the book have their own struggles and moments of insight, too. In the end, the hard work is worth it, the mystery is solved, the theme park is stopped, and friendships are strengthened.
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley