Twelve-year-old Florian Bates has recently moved to Washington, D.C., where both his parents work in art museums. His new school is Alice Deal Middle School, where he is in seventh grade along with his new best friend, a dynamic black soccer player named Margaret. He’s learning a new language (Romanian), of which he has mastered just one phrase, which translates to “My hovercraft is full of monkeys.”
Oh, and one more thing: Florian has a new job. He’s a covert asset for the FBI.
Florian was recruited into the agency thanks to his remarkable observational abilities, which rival the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Florian’s skills are all based on the fundamental philosophy he developed called T.O.A.S.T, which stands for the “Theory of All Small Things.” He tells Margaret, “That’s how I read people and places. The idea is that if you add up a bunch of little details, it reveals the larger truth.”
Of course, what use is a detective without a mystery? And luckily for Florian (and his fans, of which there are bound to be many), there is no shortage of cases to solve. It helps to have a father in museum security and a mother who specializes in art history and forgery. And when several valuable impressionist paintings disappear from the National Gallery of Art, Florian and Margaret put their observational skills to work to help find the thief.
This intriguing, lighthearted mystery features an appealing middle school friendship with a bit of art history and FBI lore thrown in for good measure. Framed! would make a great selection for pleasure reading, while also offering a number of STEM connections for classroom use. Let’s hope the T.O.A.S.T. mysteries keep coming!
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Steamboat School.