The Harlem Charade

The Harlem Charade
Age Range
Release Date
April 24, 2018
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Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family's bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time, but can't tell anyone who she really is. Elvin's living on Harlem's cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked.

When these three strangers join forces to find out what happened to Elvin's grandfather, their digging leads them to an enigmatic artist whose missing masterpieces are worth a fortune -- one that might save the neighborhood from development by an ambitious politician who wants to turn it into Harlem World, a ludicrous historic theme park. But if they don't find the paintings soon, nothing in their beloved neighborhood will ever be the same...

In this remarkable tale of daring and danger, debut novelist Natasha Tarpley explores the way a community defines itself, the power of art to show truth, and what it really means to be home.

Editor review

1 review
A mystery full of history and heart
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Jin's grandparents own a bodega in Harlem, and she likes to watch people from her out-of-the-way quiet nook and write her observations in a special notebook. Alex spends as much time as she can helping the needy in the neighborhood as she tries to hide the fact that her parents are ridiculously wealthy. Elvin was recently sent from California to New York to stay with the grandfather he didn't even know existed, and now his grandfather has been attacked and seriously injured, and Elvin is living on the streets to avoid Child Protective Services.

These three very different kids team up in THE HARLEM CHARADE first for a history project, and then to solve the mystery of Elvin's grandfather's attack and the disappearance of paintings that are a part of Harlem's history.

THE HARLEM CHARADE by Natasha Tarpley explores the rich history of the Harlem neighborhood, and it weaves an interesting mystery into that. Jin, Alex, and Elvin are great characters with intriguing backstories, and Halmoni, Jin's grandmother, is wonderful, too. I really enjoyed the emphasis on community and the importance of art and history. Tarpley did a nice job tying those themes to the book's plot, and the pacing is such that my interest was held page after page.

Harlem is as much a character in the book as any of the people portrayed, and I enjoyed traveling the streets of it with Jin, Alex, and Elvin as they worked through the twists and turns of the mystery in which they found themselves. There are some Scooby-Doo elements to the book, and I kept expecting the adults to call Jin, Alex, and Elvin "meddling kids" (which thankfully didn't happen), and this is a fun read with some truly insightful moments. The

My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Good Points
A focus on community, art, and history
An opportunity to explore Harlem
Interesting and informative Author's Note
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