Party: A Mystery – Book Review

Book Review
Party: A Mystery
Written by Jamaica Kincaid
Illustrated b Ricardo Cortés
Published June 4, 2019

Why we chose this book:
T is entranced at present by mystery-solvers. He has not abandoned his love of monster-lore, but expanded it to include monster-mysteries, which, in turn, led us to mysteries. On top of it, we return again and again to Cortés's Sea Creatures from the Sky, so seeing his work again held great appeal. A review copy was provided by Akashic Books in exchange for an honest review.

Mom's Review
Three girls are at a grown-up party, watching from the periphery and trying to figure out how to access the refreshments; two are friends and one is a younger sister. As older siblings are wont to do, the two exclude young Sue from their tete-a-tete. Sue's frustration, powerlessness, and disappointment are palpable as the girls witness but won't explain an unnamed something. Whatever it is, it is bilious. If you don't have a precise definition of bilious, prepare to look it up as we had to!

What I love best about Party is how seamlessly the illustrations and text meld. Cortés perfectly complements Kincaid's words. And together they convey the experience of a younger sibling so realistically that one must question whether this is fiction or non-fiction. The older girls not only have the self-satisfied look of those who relish having charge of a younger sibling (in a healthy, non-bullying way), but they sound like children who are trying on big words for size. And when the two older girls express disgust at how "bilious" what they observe is, I could feel my own stomach turn in reaction to their reaction. The expressions on the girls' faces are priceless!

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that it was the perfect capstone to Sue's party experience.

The illustrations and realism make Party a satisfying read that will resonate with younger siblings (or anyone who has experienced the frustration of ignorance). Two other aspects of Party enhance what is already a thoroughly satisfying book: the ending and the fact that the party is in celebration of Nancy Drew.

Son's Review
(Age: 4 years old)
Son: Let's start reading!

Mom: Are you excited? Why do you like mysteries?

Son: I am! 'Cuz they're spooky!
While reading:
Mom: Where does it look like they are? That kinda reminds me of stairs in the museum.

Son: Probably they are at the museum.

Son: What does "querulous" mean?
(My first guess was wrong; my vocabulary is expanding with this book.)

Mom: Would you go up those stairs by yourself?

Son: No, 'cuz that would be too spooky.

Mom: Does this look like a grown-up party or a kid party?

Son: A grown-up party.

Mom: How do you feel? How does she look?

Son: Excited! Concerned!

Mom: What would you do if you didn't know what they were talking about?

Son: I would ask them.

Mom: That's a good plan. How does she [Sue] feel? What would you do if you were there?

Son: Sad. I would comfort her. I would hug Sue.
After reading:
Son: What do you think they saw, Mom?

Mom: I don't know. They used two words to describe it: vile and bilious. What do you think they saw? A real thing or were they tricking Sue?

Son: Tricking her. To make her feel sad.

Mom: If the story kept going, what do you think the other girls will do? Do you think they will be nice to her?

Son: No, because they aren't nice. Maybe they'll write another story about those guys to tell us what happened.

Mom: This is a Nancy Drew book party.  Would you want to go to a book party?
(We looked at my Nancy Drew books afterward.)

Son: Of course. Can you read me these?

Mom: When you are older.