Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Harlem Charade” as Want to Read:
The Harlem Charade
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Harlem Charade

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  662 ratings  ·  140 reviews

Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family's bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time, but can't tell anyone who she really is. Elvin's living on Harlem's cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked.

When these three strangers join
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 31st 2017 by Scholastic Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  662 ratings  ·  140 reviews

Sort order
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, need-to-own
Loved it. Review to come.

So. I feel as if the previous reviews have sincerely underestimated how wonderful, how significant this book is. The Harlem Charade is a mystery featuring three POC teens who rail when their neighborhood might be bulldozed to make way for an amusement park. The story also incorporates the history of 1960s Harlem artists fighting for inclusion in the mainstream art world.

Natasha Tarpley's writing is so deftly done, relating the significance of our past affecting our futur
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
3 compelling kids of color as MCs, a fun and thrilling mystery/adventure, a tribute to Black art and culture, and an accessible take on timely issues like gentrification. A++😊
Michele Knott
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun mystery where the reader is constantly picking up new clues and having to figure out how they fit together. Also a story of unlikely friendships.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun middle grade art mystery filled with lots of interesting facts about Harlem.
Meag McKeron
2.5 stars. The messages in this story were great - the importance of art and the preservation of culture, supporting local businesses, and helping friends and those in need. The whole "kids exploring their neighborhood and trying to solve a mystery before the evil building tycoons do" sounded interesting enough. But this just bored me. It was full of information dumps (the kids overhear things one too many times), and overall it was just clunky and slow. It was a valiant effort - you could tell ...more
Kate McCartney
Jin, Alex and Elvin want to save their historic neighborhood from being turned into an amusement park tourist trap.

I really enjoyed this. Great characters, a great setting.

2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge- a book with a cat on n the cover
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bluebonnet Book Reading 18-19. This was a great mystery book for kids. It has such great messages about not judging books by their covers, digging deeper, among other things.. this was a great read!
As other reviewers have noted, fans of Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer and other art-related mysteries will enjoy this book. Anyone who likes history or has ever pondered the effects of the past on the present or the future will also enjoy it. Set in modern day Harlem, the book features three seventh graders whose lives and family backgrounds couldn't be more different. But when a chain of unlikely events draws Jin, Alexandra and Elvin together, they unite in an effort to solve the mystery of so ...more
Alexia Gordon
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Combined art history and Harlem history with a mystery that was edgier than I expected for a MG novel. The message was a bit obvious but I'm not 10-12 years old. It might not be obvious to a middle grader.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Didn't finish this. Several chapters in there started to be abrupt changes in narrative point of view, and I didn't think the main character used age-appropriate language. Disappointing, as I was looking forward to another art-centered mystery.
My absolute favorite types of stories are the ones about place. I adore novels in which the setting is so lively, so carefully and tenderly described that the place itself is one of the novel's central characters. This is a difficult thing to do, but when it is done well, it elevates a perfectly fine book to a great one.

Natasha Tarpley's 'The Harlem Charade' is just that sort of book. A young adult mystery novel set in what is arguably New York's most famous neighborhood, 'The Harlem Charade' f
American Mensa
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Harlem Charade is an interesting book. I think The Harlem Charade is unlike any other book I’ve read before. It provides a different type of action that everyone should put in a mystery book. I recommend this book for reader’s ages 10-12 because even though there is no death there is a lot of moments that would potentially scare younger readers.
The Harlem Charade is about three teenagers: Alex and Jin, who go to the same school, and Elvin, who was homeless until he met them. Elvin’s grandfat
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review originally posted on

Jin's grandparents own a bodega in Harlem, and she likes to watch people from her out-of-the-way quiet nook and write her observations in a special notebook. Alex spends as much time as she can helping the needy in the neighborhood as she tries to hide the fact that her parents are ridiculously wealthy. Elvin was recently sent from California to New York to stay with the grandfather he didn't even know existed, and now his grandfather has been at
Jayce Senter
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Originally posted here at In the Senter of it All
A treasure hunt through the history of Harlem, this book is exciting and motivating. What a fantastic book! I loved it from the first page! I recently spoke to a friend who said, “I wish there were more books like this about different cities!” You learn the history of Harlem without feeling like it’s a history lesson, but an adventure.

SUMMARY: Jin, Elvin and Alex find themselves unraveling the secrets of the Invisible 7! Along the way the discove
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this title suffers from a few plotting issues, it's an interesting mystery and an even more interesting look at an important neighborhood and time. This also speaks to the power and importance of art.

Jin has to do a school project on her neighborhood, and she's stumped. Several ideas appeal to her and then she comes across Alex, a mysterious girl who hands out free Metrocards and collects donations for a food pantry. Maybe they could do something about that? Adding Elvin (who's homeless
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Harlem Charade tells a fast paced story of three unlikely friends coming together to solve a mystery in Harlem. Jin, Alex, and Elvin - a Korean girl who lives with her adopted grandparents and helps out at their bodega in Harlem, a wealthy white girl who is desperate to help those in need as a way to deny her life of privilege, and a skinny black boy whose alone in the city because his mother is receiving cancer treatments and his guardian grandfather has been mysteriously attacked in a neig ...more
Melanie Dulaney
Solid choice for students in grades 4-6 or those with an interest in art history, Harlem, and/or realistic mysteries. Jin, Alex and Elvin have no common ground on which to base a friendship, but a lost-then-found painting by an historic Harlem artist, a mega building project that will completely change their Harlem neighborhood, and a goat Pez dispense bring the unlikely pair together to solve a mystery, reveal a criminal, and right a wrong. While mysteries are not a tremendously popular genre i ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lis-510-complete
In the Harlem Charade, EVERYONE has a secret.

This story focuses on three kids in Harlem who team up to solve a mystery AND try to defeat a nefarious politician who’s planning on some very weird gentrification. Jin is Korean American and works after school at her family’s bodega. Alex is a young activist who strives to fight against her family’s wealthy lifestyle by collecting food for shelters and giving away metro cards undercover. Elvin is a young guy, displaced from his mother, alone and lost
A middle-grade mystery set in present day Harlem, New York. This story starts off by introducing three characters in turn, and then brings them together to solve the mystery. Jin is a Korean-American who lives with her grandparents, who run a bodega. Alex is a mysterious do-gooder who leaves metro cards around town for others to find. Elvin is a boy who has recently come to the city to live with his grandfather.
There are strange things going on in Harlem. There was a painting found in a garden.
Ellen Deckinga
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Middle grade mystery.
I like how the value of history and community was shown through this story. Well crafted though I wish there were a little more Harlem in the story. Besides the occasional reference to some of the bigger names out of the Harlem Renissance the story really could have taken place in any setting.
What would make this book interesting to a kid? Kids love to feel empowered, and this book definitely does that. For various reasons adults are not accessible and the kids have to save
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took a few chapters for me to get interested, but as the plot developed, I was hooked! The relationships between characters develop with the story in a believable way. I like the variety of characters, too. As a story about relationships, and a girl who loves to take notes about people, this would be a good companion to Harriet the Spy. As a book about the power of art and the Harlem Renaissance (or more like Harlem in the 60’s), this would go nicely with Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance. As a my ...more
Kristina Sawyer
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author came to visit our school today and I loved hearing and be able to share her perspectives and writing with my 3rd and 4th graders. She is well-spoken, well educated and writes about her genuine experiences in way that allows my diverse students to all connect with and be inspired by her perspective and the content. She spoke about not seeing herself represented in the books she was reading as a girl and I love that my student are now able to see themselves because of her work and advoc ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids
Jin's adopted Korean grandparents run a neighborhood bodega, Elvin's mom is battling cancer in California, and Alex's family own a high end developer company that she is in constant rebellion against. Between the diversity of the characters and the complexity of the plot -- a decades long missing art puzzle that centers on Harlem, there's a lot to enjoy in this book. It _is_ complicated, and takes a while to really take off, pacing wise, but the community activism is inspiring and the puzzle so ...more
Joni Harris
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
While this book was slow start, it picks up about one-third into the book.

The three main characters, Jin, Alex, and Elvin, are strong middle school age characters that are on a mission to find missing artwork, the person that has attacked Elvin's grandfather, and to save their community. Their adventures are very fun to read about, and some of the chapters are cliff hangers. The three are always finding clues to put together, but I wish there had been more so that the reader could more easily f
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, a pretty good middle-grades mystery with a diverse cast of characters. For younger readers not familiar with Harlem's history, this would be a good complementary choice to pair with a unit on Harlem; for some students, this may serve as an introduction to Harlem's history and culture (although be aware: many of the artists and places mentioned are fictional, so consult Tarpley's notes at the end of the story).

As an adult, I found the idea of "Harlem World" a little preposterous (an actu
Melissa Mcavoy
Jin is drawn into a mystery when her fascination with a mysterious classmate connects the two girls to a 12 year-old boy, living on the streets of New York after his grandfather was attacked and hospitalized. What was behind the attack, how is it linked to a valuable painting found near where the grandfather was struck down and how are a series of neighborhood, crimes, demolitions and business closures all connected to a sleazy city councilman’s plans for a massive development called Harlem Worl ...more
Nominated for the 2017 Agatha for Best Children's/YA novel, this was an absolute delight! I thoroughly enjoyed the story, characters, and setting, and loved the joyful tone of the story. This novel explores the way a community defines itself, the power of art to show truth, and what it really means to be home. The story centers around three strangers who become friends -- Jin, Alex, and Elvin -- and amateur sleuths. The three join forces to find out what happened to Elvin's grandfather, which le ...more
Sherry Philippus
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A complex art mystery with diverse characters set in Harlem. I suspect it's a bit complicated for my younger readers and I think it will take a fair amount of background building to get the kids interested in the plotline. For that reason, I'd recommend using this Texas Bluebonnet nominee as either a whole-class read aloud, or as a book group study, so that all that critical schema can be addressed. I enjoyed it, but as one who's never visited New York City, it took a lot of effort to imagine th ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a good book. Art, mystery, history, culture, multicultural friendship and NYC.
Lots going in this book but it kept flowing in a great read. I personally LOVE that everything was wrapped up neatly in the end, and while there were several Scooby Doo moments of-You pesky kids have ruined our plans!-it was a good mystery. I love that it was set in Harlem and the end mentioned some of the real places and art.
Lydia enjoyed and we are thinking we can get Gloria to read it because of the art.
Last y
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It's an excellent premise, but there are some gaping plot holes that are impossible to ignore. I applaud the diverse cast and wonderful, rich setting of Harlem. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical & cultural details. BUT when there are inconsistencies, such as the protagonists miraculously entering a locked apartment without having to B&E, it interrupts the reading experience. For a mystery, it's especially disconcerting. The denouement ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles
  • The Great Shelby Holmes (The Great Shelby Holmes, #1)
  • Slider
  • Wedgie & Gizmo
  • Stef Soto, Taco Queen
  • Spirit Week Showdown (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs, #1)
  • Little Cat's Luck
  • One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
  • Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
  • How to Avoid Extinction
  • The Way to Bea
  • The Bicycle Spy
  • King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats (King & Kayla, #1)
  • The Parker Inheritance
  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
  • Betty Before X
  • Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero
  • Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics
“The fact that [Jin] didn't know her mother was simply that, another fact. Her mother leaving her was like the breath that singers take at the beginning of a song. Just a thing that happened before her real life began.” 0 likes
“Everyone is invisible to someone.” 0 likes
More quotes…