Star Friends: Hidden Charm by Linda Chapman, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Star Friends: Hidden Charm by Linda Chapman, illustrated by Lucy Fleming. Tiger Tales, 2019. 9781664340305

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? The books in the Star Friends series were first published in the UK in 2018. Hidden Charm is the most recent book published in the series in the US, although another installment was released in the UK in 2021.  Elementary students who are graduating to more complex chapter books with familiar characters and picture cues will enjoy this book and the others in the series. The main characters are diverse and the elements of animal magic are inviting and engaging. The Star Animals of Star World visit humans with the best of intentions in mind. They wish to solve problems and foster kindness and prevent the use of dark magic. This story begins with an unfinished mystery: Who worked with the Shades doing devious tasks to help Mr. Jefferson achieve his goal of winning the prettiest town award for Westport in the last story? Everyone (including Mr. Jefferson) is upset about the lengths to which the Shades went in order to win. The girls are determined to find out. The plot moves along nicely, allowing readers who did not read previous books in the series to catch up, while keeping those who did, engaged and interested. The girls waste no time trying to figure out who caused the stir in town. We follow them from the Copper Kettle Cafe, whose owner Mary is confused by the lack of customers at this popular spot, to a psychic fair where they hope to meet Mystic Maureen the fortune teller, to their encounter with mean Mr. Hannigan the owner of the marina in town. As the story unfolds, the girls begin to untangle the clues and determine who was behind the strange occurrences that ultimately end in chaos at the Copper Kettle Cafe where the story began. Black and white illustrations add charm and picture clues for younger readers throughout the story. The subplot of the girls’ worry about transitioning to middle school and upcoming state exams adds a sense of normalcy that some readers may find comfort in and be able to relate to. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? As the series progresses, it’s a bit difficult to determine which age level of reader it’s attempting to target for its demographic. While the girls are transitioning to sixth grade, the storyline of the book is geared to much younger readers. On the other hand, at the beginning of the story, the Shades are reported to have been placed into the Jefferson’s dolls in the last book. While there aren’t any images of this creepy occurrence (just repeated references) it could cause fear in younger readers with overactive imaginations. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers who have enjoyed the previous installments in this series will not be disappointed, and those who enjoy a mystery with all the clues revealed at the end will also find this a pleasurable read. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Chapter books or series collections

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No, although many students in my classroom have enjoyed reading previous books in this series. 

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: April 16, 2022

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