Heng Zeng for The Washington Post

A Girl, a Raccoon,
and the Midnight Moon

By Karen Romano Young

For ages 8 to 12

Pearl Moran knows every nook and cranny of the Lancaster Avenue branch of the New York City Public Library.

The old building — formerly home to the Lancaster family — is practically her home. The 10-year-old’s mom is the librarian, and Pearl was born in one of the book-lined rooms. (She arrived too quickly for her mom to make it to the hospital.)

Pearl has preferred spots for browsing and reading, but her favorite place is in the garden near a large statue of Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet who lived in the neighborhood years before.

(Chronicle Books)

That’s why the sight of “Vincent,” as the statue is known, without her head causes Pearl to scream. And the scream gets the attention of neighbors, library staff and soon after, the police.

The missing head is a curiosity to the neighbors, and the police think it’s just a prank and kind of funny.

“Maybe the head is tucked in with the pineapples in the greenmarket,” one officer suggests.

Pearl is outraged, as though a friend has been hurt. Her mom, however, is worried. The theft could bring unwelcome attention to the library, which in recent years has received fewer patrons. The situation has gotten worse after the city opened a modern library not far away.

Patricia Moran is right to worry. Developers soon appear, wanting to buy the building from the city to turn it into apartments.

The library staff thinks there’s not much they can do. Pearl thinks otherwise.

“This is war,” she says.

Pearl is determined to find Vincent’s head, get the library a positive story in the local newspaper and show the city how much the neighborhood cares about the place.

But how? There aren’t many clues, not even footprints at the crime scene. At least not human footprints. Pearl notices paw prints. Years ago her mom had told stories about clever raccoons that lived in the trees. But those tales were made up — or weren’t they?

With the assistance of two new friends, Pearl discovers that the library is home to a larger family — human and raccoon — and that she will need all their help to save it from destruction.

Click here to join the Summer Book Club.

You might also like . . .

In our featured book, Pearl learns about raccoons partly by reading Rascal (ages 8 to 12) by Sterling North. Although not a mystery, it’s a classic story set in 1918 of an animal-loving boy who adopts a baby raccoon. . . . Young readers should consider Greg Pizzoli’s The Book Hog (ages 4 to 8), a story about a pig who collects books because he loves the smell and feel of them. Strangely enough, he doesn’t actually read them, at least not at first. . . . The King & Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler features a girl and her dog who work together to solve mysteries — even though King can’t speak. The first book is The Case of the Missing Dog Treats (ages 7 to 9).

Next time in book club


By Jen Wang

Ages 8 to 12

When a girl named Moon moves in next door, Christine is worried. Kids at school say Moon is odd, maybe even dangerous. But the two become fast friends, and Moon introduces Christine to new music, new food and a more carefree outlook. Others in their Asian American community see Moon as an oddball and not a great influence on Christine. This graphic novel explores the strength of friendship and how kids from the same culture can be vastly different.

Join the club

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at wapo.st/kidspostbookclublaunch2020.) The first 500 kids registered will receive a book light. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. Find the registration form at wapo.st/kidspostbookclub2020. For questions, contact kidspost@washpost.com.