Book Review: Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin

Thirteen-year old Tess has never been able to compete with her “perfect” older sister, but now she must—if she wants to inherit her grandmother’s priceless tiara. The two girls have been invited to their grandparent’s lake house for the summer to help take care of Grandma who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The sister who earns the most “helpful points” wins the former beauty queen’s crown.
It’s not easy for Tess, who seems to always get things wrong despite best intentions. And who is that mysterious stranger who’s just moved next door to their grandparents’ summer cottage? 

Does he know that Tess’ grandmother was once the winner of a famous patriotic beauty contest? Or that she keeps her tiara where anyone can steal it? And why doesn’t he have a face?

Release Date: April 1, 2012
Age Group: Middle Grade
Publisher: Middleton Books
Source: Review copy from publisher

This was a sweet story!  It is very much a middle grade book, appropriate for ages 10 and up.  I found it to be a little too young for my personal taste, but it was still a great read.

Tess and her sister are staying with her grandparents at their lake house.  They are competing to win her grandmother's tiara, won at a beauty pageant.  The tiara has real diamonds and is valued at over $100,000.  The girls do chores around the house to earn "helpful points." Whoever has the most helpful points at the end of the two weeks will end the tiara.

Upon rowing around the lake, Tess spies something very mysterious going on at the neighbor's house.  She sees a figure dressed in a burka---but she doesn't know what a burka is and thinks it is a criminal disguise---and sets off to figure out what's going on.  Her misapprehensions land her into a world of trouble, and actually bring some trouble down on the neighbors too.

Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara had a great message about acceptance of people who are different.  Not only the burka-wearing neighbors, but also people with disabilities and people with Alzheimer's.  I liked how Baldwin weaves this positive message into a fast-paced, age-appropriate story.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a middle-grade audience.  It's definitely something I would let my daughter read when she is old enough.  It was too young for me personally, but still a great book.

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