In Review: Audacity Jones Steals the Show

A neat historical mystery for young readers.

Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson

Published by Scholastic on January 31, 2017. Jacketed hardcover of 192 pages at $16.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7. Also available as an ebook. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: The title of the book is large and is in light blue on a purple background. Walking through the T and E in the word steals is Min, Audie’s cat. Emerging from behind the A in steals is an elephant’s trunk that’s wrapping around the word the. Out of the large o in show are Bimmy and Audie, with the latter holding a magician’s wand. These images are good teases for what’s to be found in this book. The jacket design is by Carol Ly with the jacket art being done by Brandon Dorman. Very nice. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Audacity Jones and her best friend, Bimmy, are setting off from Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls on an extraordinary adventure! In the glittering city of New York, the girls meet Harry Houdini, the world’s most famous magician, as he prepares a new spectacle: making an elephant disappear from a crowded theater. But Audacity and Bimmy discover a nefarious plot that puts Houdini’s illusion in jeopardy. Who could be trying to sabotage the master magician? Audie will need all of her smarts, the help of friends new and old, and even her best juggling skills to solve this mystery. Will she manage to save the show in time?” This sums up exactly what this book is about without giving any spoilers. I like Houdini, so I’m always welcome to reading a book where he’s a character. Overall grade: A

The characters: Audacity, Audie, Jones is an eleven-year-old orphan who’s friends with Cypher, a former guard of President Taft, who assists him in his cases. She’s very polite, cares for all, wants to do what’s right, and is always curious enough to solve a mystery. She’s a sweet character, who surprisingly isn’t in a lot of this book. Her best friend is Bimmy, who accompanies her. Bimmy is the perfect companion for this adventure as she has a circus background and provides needed exposition to inform Audie and the reader about different aspects of the circus. Cypher, now an agent for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, is constantly flummoxed by the girls’ actions and though sometimes cross, cares for them tremendously. Min is Audie’s orange tabby cat that comes along on the outing, though she wasn’t invited. The book is sometime’s told from her point of view. Harry Houdini is portrayed as his reputation has him: self-absorbed, a showman, and consumed with being the best. I was happy to see he wasn’t a negative character, though he does have some personal failings. Bobby is Houdini’s new terrier, and a few chapters are told from his point of view. There are several other characters that the book focuses on, but I can’t say who they are without spoiling parts of the story. All the characters are engaging and move the story forward, while capturing the time period well. Overall grade: A

The settings: Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls is an orphanage of the highest degree, where the girls are well tended to and serves as the base for Audie’s adventures. New York is the prime setting of the novel and author Kirby Larson captures it well, with two locations, the Hippodrome Theater and Hotel Evelyn, getting much of the focus. Both locations are bustling with activity and a wide range of interesting characters. The time period is captured well in the descriptions. Overall grade: A

The action: By moving the point of view to a different character in every chapter, with some not even human, the interest level is high. There are also some fun, short chapters where hypnotism is used to influence the unwilling, which will make young readers curious and continue to turn pages. Tension is nicely built with the race to get Houdini’s trick to stage, as well as save one of the key performers of the illusion. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: What else could it be but a happy ending? All turns out well, with Audie and friends home safe and ready for the next mystery. Very satisfying. Overall grade: A

The final line: Harry Houdini’s inclusion is the only hook for those looking for a fix of the fantastic, but this is a neat historical mystery for young readers. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy of this book go to

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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