KidsPost Summer Book Club: ‘The Thief Knot’ by Kate Milford

July 14 at 5:19 PM

Heng Zeng for The Washington Post

The Thief Knot

By Kate Milford

Ages 10 to 12

Who kidnapped an 11-year-old girl named Peony Hyde? Why? And where could she be?

Marzana and her best friend, Nialla, plunge eagerly into the mystery. Finally, something exciting is happening!

But this is no game. Nagspeake, the maritime city where they live, is full of secrets. There are forgotten tunnels, old smugglers, an odd tea shop. Even Marzana’s parents must hide their true identities. They join forces with law enforcement officials to find Peony and her captors, but like parents everywhere, they want to keep their daughter

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

safe. They won’t let Marzana help.

So Marzana and Nialla continue their investigation in secret. They suspect Peony may be closer than the adults think.

The girls want to discover more about a dubious substitute teacher. And they must get their hands on the ransom note!

Marzana realizes that their team of two needs assistance. She and Nialla decide to put together a crew of kids with skills different from their own.

They first approach Emilia, a student who lives at their school. Poker-faced Emilia seeks out adventure. She opens doors, peers through windows, examines what she finds.

Emilia begins to unlock (often literally) the hidden side of the school for them.

Next to join the crew are a magician, who can fool the eye and use his cards as weapons, and his code-expert friend. The last member — a friendly ghost — can walk through walls.

All this time, Marzana is wrestling with her own secret: She doubts her ability to lead. She’s a quiet, often anxious person who likes to plan and strategize — not a commanding, confident type.

Even as she worries about saying or doing the wrong thing, Marzana knows time is running out for Peony. Will her crew of six be able to untangle all the strange secrets and rescue the girl?

And then a sneaky knot provides a valuable clue.

Nothing is as it seems in Nagspeake — or in this suspenseful, surprising novel.

You might also like . . .

A mystery novel full of puzzles and unexpected twists. In The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin, 16 people try to piece together the clues in an elaborate game devised by a deceased millionaire.

Young readers should look for The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, by Alexander McCall Smith. Harriet has never met her father’s five sisters. The whole family has lost touch with one another. Will Harriet be able to trace her aunts using some old clues and an unfinished portrait?

Next time in book club

The Water Bears

By Kim Baker

Ages 8 to 12

Twelve-year-old Newt is looking for a change. He survived a bear attack last year, but it left him with a scar, a limp and nightly nightmares. He considers leaving the island resort where his Mexican American family doesn’t fit in. Maybe life would be better staying with his abuela, or grandma, on the United States mainland. When he and a friend discover a large wooden bear washed up on the beach, the friend thinks that the bear might be the life-changer Newt seeks.

Join the club

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the eight books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at The first 500 kids registered will receive a book light. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian by August 1. To register, that adult must fill out our form at