Mia Chen isn't too excited about spending a month of her summer vacation in her mother's hometown in China, especially since it means that her family (including brother Jake and Aunt Lin) have to stay in the family apartment with her uncle. Mia's a little spacey sometimes, but when Aunt Lin is gone one morning, she is sure that something bad has happened. Her aunt's friend, Ying, had visited the night before, and Mia has a bad feeling about him. This intensifies when she and Jake go to visit his apartment, and he is gone as well. Her aunt left a prized family heirloom, a painting, and Mia finds another map on the back of it. Her aunt has long been obsessed with finding the treasure of a Ming Dynasty emperor, and Mia feels that if she can figure out the mystery, she will also find her aunt. She investigates the first clue, and finds symbols carved into an ancient pagoda. This leads her onward, and through luck and perseverance, she manages to figure out the riddle and the location of the treasure. There are problems along the way, and difficulties with her family relationships, but Mia is able to overcome these and have a great adventure in China. Strengths: This is the only book I've ever read that sort of made me want to travel to China! There are so many great descriptions of life in the town and of the landmarks that I am willing to forgive just about anything. Mia being able to ride buses around and see them on her own or with her brother is great. The mystery is solid, if unlikely, and I can see this being a popular choice with my readers who want a mystery about something other than missing dogs!
Weaknesses: I didn't really care about Jake and Mia's relationship, so her obsessing about him growing up and losing interest in hanging out with her got old. The Emperor's Riddle took a HUGE suspension of disbelief, but tween readers will find this easier to do. What I really think: Definitely purchasing and will avidly recommend. I'd love to see more middle grade adventures from this author.
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA
See more of her recommendations: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com