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Book Review: Solving Zoe by Barbara Dee

Eleven-year-old Zoe feels invisible at school. That is, to everyone but the weird new kid, Lucas, who thinks Zoe is a code-reading genius. She reads a single cipher in his notebook, and now he won’t leave her alone!

But when Zoe’s best friend ditches her, she begins spending time with Lucas. And before long, cryptic notes start to appear in students’ lockers, with clues that make Zoe a suspect. Solving ciphers may come easily to Zoe, but can she solve her way out of this?



Margaret McElderry/Simon & Schuster, April 2009

Realistic fiction

230 pages, including Answer Key to the secret codes and Bibliography

Recommended ages: 8-12

$15.99 hardcover; coming April 2010: Aladdin MIX/Simon & Schuster Paperback

For grandparents:

SOLVING ZOE is a novel about discovery-discovering what makes you special, how to make new friends, how to express yourself, how to solve difficult puzzles. There are a number of grownups in the story who are supportive and inspiring role models, especially the school’s grandmotherly, mysterious Ancient Civilizations teacher.

But this is not only a story about school, friends and family; readers will learn about secret codes and ciphers in history. (There’s even an Answer Key and Bibliography in the back, to encourage kids to read further.) It’s also just fun. Kirkus Reviews called SOLVING ZOE “entertaining and educational,” while the celebrated author Frances O’Roark Dowell wrote: “SOLVING ZOE is funny, fast-paced, smart, and totally absorbing, with a twist of intrigue that will keep you reading past bedtime. Barbara Dee’s a terrific writer.” In New York State, kids have recently nominated SOLVING ZOE for the 2010 Library Association Three Apples Book Award.

Links to reviews:

https://www.teensreadtoo.com/SolvingZoe.html (Gold StarAward for Excellence, Hall of Fame);


Barbara Dee, a former English teacher and lawyer, now writes for kids full time. When she isn’t writing, she loves visiting classrooms and libraries to teach kids about writing. She and her husband are the parents of three book-loving kids. You can read more about Barbara on her website, www.BarbaraDeeBooks.com.

Other Books by Barbara Dee:

–Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life (hardcover, McElderry/Simon & Schuster 2006, ISBN-10:1416908617: paperback, Aladdin MIX/Simon & Schuster 2007, ISBN-10: 1416947396), which earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly

–This Is Me From Now On (paperback, Aladdin MIX/Simon & Schuster, April 27, 2010, ISBN-10: 1416994149)

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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