Monday, April 5, 2010

Camp Club Girls: McKenzie's Montana Mystery

My eight-year-old daughter and I were thrilled to get McKenzie's Montana Mystery in our mailbox a few weeks ago. The third book in Barbour Publishing's Camp Club Girls series, McKenzie's Montana Mystery continues the story of six girls who met at camp and have remained on-line friends. Each book highlights an adventure a couple of the girls have. They keep in contact with the other girls in Internet chat rooms, and via email. In book three, McKenzie and Bailey spend time on a horse ranch, training for various rodeo competitions and trying to solve the mystery of a stolen horse.

Bailey joins McKenzie at a horse camp for girls in rural Montana. Bailey is nine, and the youngest of the Camp Club Girls. She enjoys spending time with McKenzie, but she also feels a bit jealous. McKenzie has been riding horses longer, and is better at barrel-racing and the other competitive events. Bailey also wishes she could take McKenzie's place in the Junior Miss Rodeo contest. However, the focus of the girls' attention quickly turns to their sponsor, Emma, and her prize-wining horse, Diamond Girl, who was stolen just a week before the rodeo.

The girls continue to train, but use all their free time to collect clues. Soon, they realize a strange horse is being kept in an abandoned Western town near the camp. They sneak out and clip some of its hair to send to Kate, who will use a science kit to test for dye. When Kate tells them the horse has, indeed, been painted, they realize it is Diamond Girl in disguise. However, when they try to tell Emma, they find out she is in the hospital with a possible broken arm. Then they receive a threatening note, and decide they better keep their clues to themselves until they find out who stole Diamond Girl. At the end of the rodeo, after McKenzie has won both the barrel-racing and the Junior Rodeo Queen competitions, and Bailey has won the sheep chase, the clues all fall into place. Maggie, a neighboring farmer, stole Diamond Girl so she could win the rodeo events and start a new therapy ranch. At the last minute, the police arrest her, and Emma is reunited with Diamond Girl.

What I Like: This mystery series is perfect for young girls who love God, value their friends, and like suspense. All six of the main characters are sweet and kind, but with their own quirky and unique personalities. The mysteries are old-fashioned and will remind readers of Nancy Drew, while being tame enough not to cause any lasting stress. I also like how the series emphasizes loving God, knowing His Word, and trying to do what He would want.

My daughter and I learned lots of fun information about horses and rodeos, and I enjoyed the interactions between Bailey and McKenzie. Shari Barr realistically portrayed the tension between Bailey and McKenzie. Bailey loved her friend and wanted her to win the competitions, but still felt jealous and insecure. McKenzie understood Bailey's feelings and did her best to comfort her, but still competed to the best of her ability.

What I Dislike: Although I enjoyed the book overall, the writing wasn't as tight and the biblical message wasn't as solid as in the first two books. Each book is written by a different author, and this time it was more apparent. Some of the conversations were awkward, and the plot didn't resolve until the last half of the last chapter. It felt like there were extraneous clues, and at several points, the girls should have told Emma what was going on.

Also, the biblical theme was centered around McKenzie suspecting a stable hand of being involved in the disappearance of Diamond Girl. She asked for forgiveness more than once, but there didn't seem to be anything to forgive. Although McKenzie suspected the stable hand, she still treated him with kindness and didn't voice her concerns to any of his superiors. A better biblical theme would have been Bailey overcoming her insecurity to be happy with who God made her.

Also, there were only a few Scripture references this time, as opposed to a half-dozen in the other books. In the other books, at least one Scripture was repeated often enough for readers to really internalize its message.

Overall Rating: Good, by itself, but Very Good as a series

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Barbour Publishing, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-60260-269-4; Paperback, $5.97

Buy it Now at for $4.79

OR Buy it at for $5.97.

Special Info: Read our reviews of other Camp Club Girls books here.

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