by Judith Eagle
illustrated by Jo Rioux

A crafty, light-hearted Middle-Grade caper!

Walker Books, a division of Candlewick Press, released the first US edition of this international adventure in April 2022. I received an Advanced Reader Copy and devoured it on one beach day.

Nell (Penelope) Magnificent was raised by selfish, mean-spirited, criminally minded parents. Thankfully, she had an Au Pear named Perine (Pearine) for the youngest years of her life, and they adored each other. So even though her parents sent Pear back to Paris and Nell off to boarding school at age seven, Nell knows love. However, when Pear’s monthly letters stop abruptly after five years, Nell also knows something isn’t right.

Nell finagles her parents to include her on a business trip to Paris and sets off to find her beloved Nanny. She meets interesting and well-developed characters, like Xavier the bellhop, Michel, his grandfather, Emil, Pear’s ex-neighbor, and the children of the underground, each adding something to Nell’s story. These children use a network of tunnels under the Paris streets as a playground of limitless proportion and display the true nature of friendship.

While Eagle tends to simplify life’s obstacles for her protagonist, that’s not necessarily bad in this case because numerous subplots might otherwise be too complicated to untangle. As it is, they end up braiding together beautifully as the story wraps up.

We have a missing au pair, criminal parents, a crooked mayor, an underground world, an eccentric dress designer, a strange “Thing” affecting bread and wine throughout the city, and sinister ladies following Nell.

I was surprised to learn on page 92 that the setting was 1969 (I had wondered about the lack of technology), but I’m not sure it will matter to the middle-grade reader as there’s just too much else happening. And while my ARC did not include final illustrations, the sketches of Paris 50 years ago added an element of whimsy to the reading.

THE PEAR AFFAIR is an entertaining, mischievous escapade.


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