Book Review: The Pyramid Puzzle, Starring Olive Black

The Pyramid Puzzle, Starring Olive Black, Alex Miles (author), Maude Guesne (illus.), Affirm Press, 2018

Synopsis: Olive jet-sets all the way to Egypt for her latest blockbuster. She’s starring as a junior archaeologist who uncovers ancient secrets. But it’s the mystery she’s digging up at school that’s truly puzzling. With the help of the naughtiest boy she knows, can Olive solve the riddle of two feuding teachers? Or will she discover that things are not always as they seem?

 

I’m a big fan of junior fiction novels and really enjoyed reading The Pyramid Puzzle, the latest, and fifth, book in the Starring Olive Black series, written by Alex Miles and illustrated by Maude Guesne. The series is aimed at girls, in particular, who are aged between around eight and eleven years old.

Olive is a ten-year-old movie star, but her life isn’t all “Lights, Camera, Action”. Off set, at school and home, Olive faces struggles just like the other kids, and has to learn about relationships and how to deal with various challenges that crop up.

According to the publisher, Affirm Press, the series was partly written by Miles to “help parents start casual conversations with kids about everyday worries, and to enable them to share their own experiences from the classroom, playground and beyond.” I’m happy to report that The Pyramid Puzzle achieves this aim effectively.

In the story, Olive and her friends are consumed with a mystery, but along the way they also discover the importance of not judging people so quickly, and how appearances can be quite different to reality. The book explores themes such as friendship, family, belonging, treating others with respect, judgments, supporting others, and more.

On top of giving children plenty to think about as they read, the novel also ties in beautifully to the curriculum, since not only Olive’s latest movie set, but also her current school project, revolves around Ancient Egypt in this story. Teachers are sure to find The Pyramid Puzzle a helpful tie-in to discuss Egypt in the classroom, while kids who are fascinated by Egyptian history and customs (as most are), will find the tidbits of information and activities explored in the story really intriguing.

The scenes which relate to Olive’s acting work in movies will also be popular with kids who have imagined what it might be like to be up on screen. There is some good information provided, in a natural way, about how productions work, and the kind of terminology used on set. Add to this some great mystery (about the strange relationship between Olive’s teacher and a new staff member), plus some good humour, a feisty and curious main character, plus entertaining writing, and you’ve got a solid combination.

The book’s text is perfectly paired with Guesne’s fresh, modern illustrations throughout. The black-and-white artwork is only occasional, but helps to break up the text and add more insight into the characters and situations throughout. I love the cover art too – it’s a fun bright yellow, and showcases the Egyptian theme, but is funky enough to show kids this is a 21st-century story. I’m sure it will get a lot of attention on the shelves.

The Pyramid Puzzle is recommended for readers aged around eight years and up.

Please note that a complimentary copy of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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