The 100-Year-Old Secret
2011-2012 Virginia Readers’ Choice Master List nominee; Great Stone Face Book Award nominee 2010 (Children's Librarians of New Hampshire); Volunteer State Book Award nominee 2010-2011 (Tennessee); Finalist, Nevada Young Readers' Award Master List 2010; Young Hoosier Book Award nominee; Kansas State Reading Circle; Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee; Sequoyah Book Award (Oklahoma) nominee; Sunshine State Young Readers Award nominee; Nēnē Award nominee (Hawaii); Surrey (British Columbia, Canada) Schools' Book of the Year Award nominee 2012; a Junior Library Guild selection; also published in Japanese, Turkish, and Korean
Paperback, March 2010 (Square Fish)
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Upon moving to their new home in London, siblings Xena and Xander Holmes immediately discover a strange but true fact: They are the direct descendants of the great detective Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his casebook of unsolved mysteries. One might think it presumptuous of two children to assume that they could succeed where the legendary sleuth had failed, but, kids being kids, they do not and find themselves almost immediately wrapped up in a case involving a missing painting. Following leads, conducting interviews and applying a little old-fashioned know-how help the Holmes kids discover the truth behind the portrait's mysterious subject and the location that has kept it safe and sound all these years. Barrett presents readers with great characters and a believable mystery solved credibly (with the help of somewhat less-than-convincing photographic memories). A strong start to what will undoubtedly remain an enjoyable series.
The main characters are observant, bright, and gifted with powers of deduction. Watson's great-great-great grandson, Andrew, is integral to the plot. Some clues seem to be obvious, but they can lead to a wrong conclusion. A well-paced beginning to a new series.
School Library Journal
The setting sets up some interesting scenes as the children explore their new city and find, among other things, that even familiar words can have unfamiliar meanings. In a nice gender-stereotype reversal, 10-year-old Xander is the child who disarms adults with his winning smile, while Xena is more likely to keep her wits about her. Although not always completely convincing, the first book in the Sherlock Files is a fastpaced, entertaining mystery.
Each sibling comes across as a well-drawn individual: Xander possesses a photographic memory and a natural ability to charm adults, while Xena is an expert eavesdropper and the one more willing to jump into action. Barrett’s accessible writing style, straightforward vocabulary, and relatively innocuous choice of crimes make the books appropriate for youngsters of varying age levels and reading abilities. The action is well-paced, the clues are clearly presented, and the characters’ deductions are logical and plausible. Share these titles with a class, keep track of the clues on the board, and encourage your students to draw conclusions and solve the mysteries along with the characters.
School Library Journal Curriculum Connections
The story moves quickly, and the characters are lively and engaging.
Barrett masterfully paints the characters of Xena and Xander while launching the story’s plot, and I like that. I so much want to turn that first page in every book I read and this one certainly didn’t disappoint me. Barrett’s beginning is a charming device that sets up the plot without boring the reader. Everything fits. I loved the way Barrett uses a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, to lend credibility to her characters. In addition, she gives Xander a photographic memory so the kids have quick access to information. It’s a marvelous way to solve a literary problem while making Xander a "real boy." Kids will easily identify with both Xena and Xander because Barrett allows them to be kids, not just miniatures detectives. Xena and Xander matter just as much as solving the mystery.
With the help of some of their mother's new gadgets, Watson's great-great-great-nephew (who still carries a grudge for his ancestor's lack of limelight), and of course, deductive reasoning, it's elementary that Xena and Xander are destined to follow in the footsteps of their namesake.
The twins use their brains, get in a little danger and don't have to resort to superpowers or pretending that all adults are stupid in order to solve their crime.
Kiss the Book
Thanks to [audiobook reader] Pittu and a compelling story, The 100-Year-Old Secret won't be a secret for long.