‘The Ambrose Deception’ by Emily Ecton Is a Clever and Creative Caper for Middle Grade Readers


“The Ambrose Deception” by Emily Ecton is an unusual mystery/adventure set in Chicago, as experienced by a trio of middle school students who have been chosen for a unique assignment — not for their brains, nor for their talent — but because of their rather unusual abilities and what have perceived as their failures.

But these three teens are admirable and determined. When their inclusion in a scholarship competition is announced to their schools, members of the staff are sure a mistake has been made. Yet each of the three has a unique talent that will help them in the competition — but only after they get together to solve the mystery.

As it turns out, the creator of the competition, the rather unprepossessing “Mr. Smith,” is not who he appears to be, but rather is having the children solve the clues for his own purposes. Once the children figure out what is really at stake in the competition, they are determined to do their best to win.

This book is an easy sell because it hooks the reader from the very first page. The main characters are believable, and each of the children has a particular burden regarding life at home. Not one has a “perfect” life. In spite of their personal challenges, the three efficiently and effectively search the city for answers to the clues, and readers get to tag along to visit many Chicago sights including the Lincoln Park Zoo, Michigan Avenue, Willis Tower, and classic Chicago architecture in the Loop.

There are good guys and bad guys, but what’s great is that the adults who are most important in the story are those who encourage and help the kids.

It’s a great companion book to the “Lemoncello” books or the Balliett books that are situated in Chicago. Perfect for kids from fourth grade through seventh.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.

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