Montgomery and the Case of the Golden Key

Montgomery and the Case of the Golden Key
Publisher Name
Lee & Low Books
Age Range
Release Date
October 10, 2023
It's 2008, and ten-year-old Montgomery "Monty" Carver is out to find the origin of a golden key found in his Southside Chicago community--which may or may not host the next Olympic games, or supply the next President of the United States, or... have a potential ghost hanging around.
In 2008 Chicago, in the Southside community of Washington Park, Montgomery"Monty" Carver had hoped for the best summer ever! Unfortunately, things aren't going as planned. Monty is struggling to prove to his parents that he's old enough to be without adult supervision--especially after a very embarrassing incident with a metal detector. Man!

So when Monty finds a golden key in Old Lady Jenkins's sunflowers, he decides he's going to unravel the key's mystery all by himself, thank you very much. No parents allowed. Besides, he's ten years old now, and he's mastered the perfectly round 'fro! (It takes a protractor, you see.)

Soon Monty's hunt to determine the origin of the key leads him to discover the rich history--like famous Black jockeys!--of his Chicago community, which has been speculating its future since one of their residents, Barack Obama, is running for president and the Olympics might come to town in 2016.

On top of all that speculating, there are rumors going around that a ghost is hanging out behind their apartment building, and that Monty's elementary school may have to close.

So much to solve! Should the Olympics come to Washington Park? What happens if his school closes? Is there really a ghost? And where, oh where, did the key come from anyway? Monty is determined to find out.

Editor review

1 review
Neighborhood secrets
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The book has an old, small-town feeling despite being set in 2008 Chicago. The author creates a world around Monty’s apartment where most of his neighbors are older, retired men and women. Monty likes to spend much of his time playing in the backyard next to an alley although his parents don’t trust him enough to leave this area unsupervised. He’s just turning ten so their concern is understandable, especially when some of his impulsive decisions put him in potential danger.
The author uses old stories told by the characters to create nostalgia and a tight feeling in the community. Monty is forced to make money during the summer and he’s trying to learn more about the golden key he finds. He visits with his elderly neighbors and asks if the key might belong to them. It doesn’t but it helps them remember stories from their childhoods during simpler times. One lady relates a moment in her life as the daughter of an ice man while another neighbor tells of a trip aboard a train and meeting a Pullman porter. This sense of history becomes a major factor in resolving a simmering problem that emerges as the plot moves along. The book also highlights science as Monty frequently uses the scientific method to resolve questions. It’s nothing too serious or educational that might dissuade young readers.
There are underlying plots about Obama’s campaign to become president and Chicago’s bid for the Summer Olympics. Having the Olympics in their community sounds like a great thing but some characters question how it will affect their lives. In addition, Monty learns a lot about different relationships as he tries to navigate his unexpectedly, eventful summer. His best friend is sent to New Orleans so Monty is left with another boy who likes to tease him. There are neighbors with reputations that frighten Monty but he learns to understand and appreciate them. Old Mrs. Jenkins is the most intimidating character and he does his best to avoid talking to her or even letting her see him. Perhaps Monty’s biggest issue is understanding how to balance what he wants to do with his parents’ expectations.
What didn’t work as well:
This narrative and vocabulary are straightforward without excessive description or fancy language. This style is contrary to most of the books I read but it fits the tone of the setting and characters. The problems and characters are realistic and simple so they don’t require needless details or complications.
The final verdict:
This book may not wow young readers but it’s an unassuming treat. Most young readers can identify with Monty’s normalness and the mystery of the gold key will keep them wondering. The plot comes to a very happy, satisfying conclusion. Overall, I recommend you give this book a shot.
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