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Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara

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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?

212 pages, Paperback

First published March 24, 2012

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Terry Baldwin

4 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Heather.
482 reviews45 followers
July 27, 2012
This is a middle grade novel about relationships, stereotypes, family and doing the right thing. Tess and Brianna are sisters, eighth grade and sophomore respectively and they remind me a lot of Ramona and Beezus in their relationship. They love each other, but they are so opposite and have a hard time getting along. Tess, much like Ramona, seems to get things wrong a lot, but she really only has the best of intentions. Like when she rides her bike to Wilkins store to get information under the pretense of getting candy. She gets the information and the candy, but sticks the chocolate candy in her back pocket and forgets about it. Later, when she remembers it, it's one giant mess. Not intentional, but still, she messed up. She's worried that the strangers who don't want anyone in their cove are planning to steal her crown. Or maybe Frank with the big "Don't Mess With Me" sticker on his truck is planning to steal it. But what really happens is something much worse. Tess finds out that the people staying in the house next to her grandparent's house are Muslims. She reads all about the girl that wears the burka in an old National Geographic and the restrictions placed on women in Muslim countries (this is an old magazine) and she jumps to conclusions. She runs to Frank with her suspicions, her worries about the Tiara, and Frank jumps to his own conclusions calling them terrorists.

Meanwhile, the competition for "helpful points" is no competition at all. Brianna is winning by leaps and bounds. It seems that she will win the Tiara worth a college education. How did grandma win it? She was the last winner of the "Miss Land of the Free" beauty pageant. So, since no one knew what to do with the tiara, she got to keep it. Though Tess is trying, her imagination, which is never a bad thing, but is a bit overactive, takes her into overdrive and she gets too involved with the people next door to have time to earn "helpful points."

But, Tess does learn a few things about Alzheimers and her grandmother and life. She learns what's important in life and how good it feels to do the right thing. The novel is easy to read and the pace is fast. Though it's heavy on lessons it doesn't feel that way at all. It does cover a lot of life lessons in such a small book, but the lessons are brief on some points, heavier on others. I enjoyed it and agreed with it and the points it made.

There were some things that I had a little trouble with There were some stereotypes like Frank with the cars up on blocks in his yard and the junk littering it. And Brianna, a sophomore who wants to study to be a doctor used the word "retarded" when referring to a girl with autism. As a girl with a 4.0 GPA I'd expect her to know what autism is and not to use such an outdated term as "retarded." And every time someone said "autism" the other person would ask "artistic?" as if they'd never heard the word before. Given the fact that there were cell phones and computers I would assume that it was meant to be contemporary novel.

Despite those complaints, I felt the novel did a great job portraying the post 9/11 prejudices many have towards Middle Eastern looking people before they even discover what religion they are or even what their names are. There is an element of danger and competition. And as I said, Tess reminds me a lot of Ramona so I really enjoyed her character and the growth she showed from the beginning of the novel to the end.

I highly recommend this novel to MG and up readers. The MC is 13 but the story is great for any reader. I was completely engrossed in the story as I read. It's a bit complex for the younger readers so I'd say it's for the older end of the MG range. And definitely it could carry over to any type of prejudice.
Profile Image for P.E..
499 reviews25 followers
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August 5, 2012
Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara is not a YA book. I wasn't expecting that so I had to adjust my expectations a little bit before reading. I'd say it's a younger MG book.

I think it's a very charming read. I haven't read children's books for a long time so I enjoyed putting myself back there. I could relate with Tess a lot. She reminded me of myself when I was a kid- full of hopes and dreams, imaginative and uh, absent minded. My mom would tell you not a lot has changed. Tess made mistakes but she always meant well.

The plot was very easy to follow and amusing. One of my favourite things about the story was how fast every scene moved. The story felt very complete and it was done in a little over a hundred pages. This was not a boring read at all. I was able to finish it pretty much in one sitting. The setting is very clear and I like the simplicity of the descriptions.

What's interesting about this novel is that it speaks about important issues like discrimination but in a clear way. I've been lucky enough to be raised within a multicultural household and go to the most diverse high school in the region. I don't consider myself a discriminatory or racist person because I have so many experiences with different types of people. Tess is in a different situation. She seems to come from a white background and neither she or her family has much experience with diversity. However, she learns and I really liked that part of the story.

Overall, I think this is a pretty good children's story. I'll probably give it to my sister once she's a little bit older and can read better. I like the message and Tess is a great role model. What I don't like is the that Tess is supposed to be 13 but doesn't act like it at all. I thought she was 8-11 based on the way she acted and her thought process. I can't star-rate the book because this isn't my genre so I don't have very many comparables. For what it's worth, I did enjoy it.
Profile Image for Laura.
83 reviews26 followers
December 27, 2012
When I accepted the book for review I did that only because I was really interested in how a story could contain terrorists, a tiara, prejudice, and Alzheimer's syndrome - and not turn a massive amount of lecturing.

I was surprised, though, how the author was able to not only write a very cute story with an adorable main character but also bind the message into the story. Tess was such a nice girl, standing in the shadow of her older sister and not having a very high opinion of herself. Then again,she's not whiny or anything and she tries to do the right thing. The little accidents that happen to her are really funny and make her a very sympathetic little girl.


Which brings me to an element of this book that I did not like. Throughout the whole story Tess - at least to me - seemed much younger than thirteen. She was quite naive and didn't know about a lot of things - facts that should be common to a thirteen year-old girl. That didn't hold me from enjoing the story, though. I just imagined her being no older than maybe nine or ten which is no problem because apart from the synopsis her age is never mentioned in the novel.


The plot itself was nothing uber-special. I mean, the events were very unexpected - but also kind of unrealistic so that should keep the balance :)
It did help,though, to deliver the message of the book. Tess made some mistakes and learned from them and I think that's what readers of this book would do, too.


All in all, Tess, Terrorist and the Tiara was a quick read I'd recommend for Middle Grade readers or everyone who is in the mood for a light children's novel with a valuable message.


I want to thank the author of this book and the publisher Middleton Books for offering me a digital review copy of Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara. That, of course, does not influence my view on the book :)
322 reviews8 followers
July 10, 2016
Fifty years ago, Tess’s grandmother became the last winner of the Miss Land of the Free pageant. Today, Grandma’s health is declining due to Alzheimer’s. Deciding to make the most of her remaining years of cognizance, Grandma decides to give her diamond tiara—the one she was crowned with—to her granddaughter. The problem is, she has two: Tess, 13, and Brianna, 16. In order to make the decision fair, she and Grandpa invite the sisters to participate in a contest during their summer visit. Whoever earns enough “Helpful Points” before school starts will win the tiara.

Poor Tess thinks her chances of winning are dismal. Her pretty older sister is smart and competent, while Tess, on the other hand, has been described by friends and family as sweet but scatter-brained, constantly distracted by an over-active imagination. Here is where the story incorporates not only “Tess” and the “Tiara,” but “Terrorists” as well. After reading an article in National Geographic about the frightening, misogynist nature of Muslim extremists, Tess notices one of the neighbors clad head-to-toe in a dark cloak, and recognizes it from the article as a burka. Putting two and two together, Tess fears that the neighbors are terrorists who are targeting her grandmother—Miss Land of the Free herself!

Baldwin’s short novel isn’t not so much about a girl encountering a different culture or religion as it is a cautionary tale about judging people at face value. It’s certainly a nice message to teach children. However, I feel that the story would have been better served if it had shown Tess exploring another culture’s traditions and values than simply act as an exercise in tolerance. Recommended for Ages 9-13.
Profile Image for Paula  Phillips.
4,846 reviews294 followers
May 11, 2012
When I saw the cover of this book , it sounded like something I would read and then I read the blurb and I was intrigued. Though, it wasn't until I started to get into the novel that I realised in a personal way how much the book related to aspects of my life. The first thing that attracted me to the story was in fact the Tiara and the fact that this novel touched a little bit on beauty contests as I find reading about these type of reality contests fun and enjoyable, though I'm not really one to watch them on TV. The next part was when I discovered that the Grandma in the novel has developed Alzheimer's Disease. A couple of years ago my Grandad developed Alzheimer's and went downhill quite quickly and the third aspect was that we learn that living across the lake is a group of Muslims whom are mistaken for Terrorists and that one of the daughters has autism , this related to me as I have two siblings and a parent with it and as it is genetic, I can trace it through my Grandad's side of the family.
In Tess, Terrorists and The Tiara , we meet Tess and her sister Bree. This summer their Grandmother developed Alzheimer's and as promised one of the grandaughters will recieve the Tiara which Tess's grandmother won over 50yrs ago. In order to win the tiara, the girls must earn brownie points. Out on the lake one day, Tess discovers a group of Muslims and lets her imagination with the help of neighbour Frank go wild into believing that they are in fact a group of terrorists out to steal her Grandmother's Tiara.
A novel that has it's fun moments as well as touching as we watch two families struggle in their own ways to adapt to their families environments.
854 reviews45 followers
May 20, 2012
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.
Profile Image for bosicbyi.
166 reviews3 followers
May 20, 2012
Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara is about thirteen-year old Tess. Tess and her perfect older sister are invited to spend the summer with their grandparents at their lake house to help take care of their Grandmother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Tess and her sister have been given a contest, the sister who wins the most helpful points will win their Grandmother's beauty queen crown.

Although Tess always has the best intentions, everything seems to go wrong for her. Especially when she becomes obsessed with finding out who the mysterious people are that just moved into the cottage next door.

This short read expressed an excellent point. We all know not to judge a book by its cover, the same rule applies to people. Just because someone looks different, dresses different, or has a different culture does not automatically mean they are a bad person. I enjoyed this Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara, it was well written and I was hooked from page one. This is a perfect read for middle and high school readers.

Special Thanks to Middleton Books for providing an e-book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Crys (thehodgenator).
756 reviews72 followers
August 26, 2012
While the novel’s heroine, Tess, is thirteen, the core audience for this book seems to be a bit younger, maybe ten or eleven.

Tess is a delightful character that a lot of young girls can find a piece of themselves. She is on the cusp of being a teenager, she has an older sister everyone seems to prefer, and she is quite forgetful. But the one thing that causes her to stand out from her sister is that she is not motivated by anything other than being herself. She is who she is, and she will not compromise that, even if it means she will lose a shot at her grandmother’s tiara. After all, her sister is overly helpful, and she seems to always beat Tess at volunteering for everything.

To read the rest of this review, click here.
Profile Image for Rebecca McKinnon.
Author 20 books212 followers
June 4, 2012
Tess is my kind of girl. A little clumsy, a little forgetful, very well-meaning, full of heart. With all the good intentions in the world, things around her always fall apart.



Unfortunately for Tess, when she catches sight of someone at a neighboring cabin who keeps their face covered she's curious - and a little scared. Things get stranger when she asks her grandpa about the new neighbors: he tells her they want to be left alone, and she should stay away from them.

Who could these strangers be?

When she meets a man who has ideas of his own, she agrees to keep an eye on the strangers. Before long, they're both convinced the neighbors are terrorists who want to steal the tiara Tess's grandmother won at the "Miss Land of the Free" pageant.

This is a fun, quick read!
Profile Image for Wendy Hines.
1,322 reviews259 followers
July 8, 2013
What a fun young adult read! Tess and her sister spend the summer at Grandma's and whoever gets the most helpful points gets to keep Grandma's tiara she won back in the day. Tess is full of energy and has a very active imagination. She watches the neighbors and her imagination goes wild.

Baldwin has created very likable characters, easily imagined and approachable. The pages just flew by, entranced with the story with it's subtle messages,such as don't judge a book by it's cover. If you're looking for a good, clean read for your middle grader, pick up Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin. A gem of a read!
Profile Image for Cynthia  Sherman.
433 reviews10 followers
July 11, 2012
This was a Good Reads first reads book giveway. Thank you!!!!I actually liked this book. It was faced paced and interesting. Tess learned a lot about people in this book including herself. It was fun to watch how she bumbled her way through her investigation and then how she saved the day by not giving up.
Profile Image for Brian.
291 reviews116 followers
May 27, 2012
I like this story, but there are several things that don't quite work for me. But that being said, I'm not much of a MG reader, and I think that leads me to be a terrible MG critic. This might be perfect for 4th grade girls. It might not be. I'm not sure. Full review to come, though.
Profile Image for Haylie Bain.
12 reviews4 followers
April 13, 2013
It was a so so book but i have read better but still i did enjoy it
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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