The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels

Dutton. Feb. 2023. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593533239.
Gr 4 Up–The Swift family has a long and proud history, and in that history are two very important features: everyone receives a name from the family dictionary, and one of the early Swifts hid a large treasure somewhere on the estate. Once every decade, the whole family gathers together to search for it. Shenanigan Swift has lived on the family estate her whole life, but she is about to experience her first Swift reunion and she is determined to be the one who finds the treasure. However, when the matriarch of the family, Great Aunt Schadenfreude, is severely injured, Shenanigan ends up spending the whole reunion hunting for a murderer instead of treasure. Reminiscent of classic detective novels, this book features a delightfully complex and often outrageous series of events leading to the solving of the mystery. Shenanigan learns she can be more than her name, creating a lovely level of depth that especially matters in her relationship with her two sisters. The language and vocabulary are quite advanced, which makes for a captivating read in the right hands, but could be frustrating for some middle graders. Shenanigan, her sisters, and the majority of the Swifts read white. Two characters are Black, and two Swifts read as trans and nonbinary.
VERDICT Fans of Agatha Christie or Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society will love this fresh spin on a classic caper.

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