Octavia Spencer is an Oscar-winning actress for her role as “Minny” in the move The Help. She has entertained and captured our imaginations in other films such as Fruitvale Station and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. However, did you know that she is also a very talented writer who has released her first children’s book? Yep, it’s true!
Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time Capsule Bandit (ages 8-12) is the first in a series of books by Spencer, about a 12 – year – old girl (Randi) who’s trying to adjust to life after the loss of her mother. Her father, a mystery writer, has decided to relocate the two of them from their New York apartment to a small town in Tennessee for a change of pace and scenery. Randi is none too happy with the move and turns her attention toward solving mysteries as she has been doing (unbeknownst to her father) for some time now. Fearing that she will be bored out of her mind, it doesn’t take Randi long to uncover some strange goings on in her new hometown. There’s a missing time capsule, buried treasure and a haunted cabin. With the help of some new-found friends, she has just three days to sort it all out.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. In Randi, Spencer created a female protagonist that both boys and girls would find intriguing. On the one hand she is trying to come to terms with the death of her mother while, on the other hand, she is trying to get her father to realize that she isn’t a helpless little girl. Not only is she a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but she’s also smart, brave and funny.
Spencer writes well and the story is easy to follow and very engaging. I would say that it is probably better suited for the 8 to 10-year-old than the 11 to 12-year-old depending on their reading level. What impressed me most about this book was that it can be for any reader – Black, White, Hispanic, Asian – absolutely any kid can identify with this book. Also, the author went out of her way to address gender equality in this book by making Randi a girl who clearly goes against the female stereotype. At one point in the story, Randi bristles when her father refers to her as “Princess”, thinking that he would have never treated a boy “like some delicate flower.” Then there’s the appendix, which offers probably the most fun that I’ve ever had reading a book. You’ll find anecdotes, science experiments and even an ice-cream recipe that all tie in with the story. I had a really good time reading this book (and I was reading by myself, not with my kids). I can’t wait for the next installment Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series.