Loot: How to Steal a Fortune by Jude Watson – Review by Tony Keefer
To be honest I am seriously loving the current wave of books that cast kid characters as spies, detectives or master criminals. It fascinates me to see authors like Gordon Korman, Stuart Gibbs, Eoin Colfer and Kate Messner craft an at least plausibly believable plotline with kids acting like James Bond, Kinsey Millhone or John Dortmunder.
Jude Watson’s Loot: How to Steal a Fortune is on the crest of the aforementioned wave. When I saw the cover peering back at me in my NerdCamp swag bag it took nearly all of my willpower to stop getting my room set up for a presentation and dive right in. Seriously, how could I possible not read a book with a giant diamond sporting a pair of yellow Wayfarers on the cover? While I had to wait until after the first day of NerdCamp was complete, once I made it back to the Super 8, I got right to my new page-turner.
The start of Loot is very tense. We meet March McQuinn, an almost thirteen year-old master thief in training, as he witnesses his father’s fall from an Amsterdam building. A botched heist with tragic repercussions. The father’s dying words starts March on a quest to find thirteen valuable and possibly cursed moonstones. March’s life might be at risk if he can’t find and steal all thirteen moonstones.
March, who has learned how to be a thief by being home roadschooled by his dad apparently has all the skills he needs to accomplish the task at hand, but he is lacking support. March soon discovers he has a twin sister named Jules, who also has some rather uncanny abilities since she has spent most of her life traveling with a renegade Cirque de Soliel type outfit. March and Jules meet up with Darius, a young ‘muscle man’, and Izzy, a technogenius. Suddenly, March has just what he needs – a gang of misfits who want to travel around the world with him to track down and steal the moonstones.
Jude Watson’s writing is fast paced and the characters are well developed. While there were definitely a few moments I had to suspend my belief a little, my love of caper/heist stories combined with Watson’s prose made it easy for me to want to believe these kids could beat all the security systems, play all the cons and actually nab all the jewels. At times I felt like I was watching a pint-sized version of Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job. I wanted the lovable March, Jules, Darius and Izzy escape by the skin of their teeth with each successive job.
I can see many upper elementary or middle school students ripping through Loot: How to Steal a Fortune. If books like Gordon’s Korman’s Swindle series, Stuart Gibbs’ Spy School and Spy Camp, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series or Kate Messner’s trilogy of books starting with Capture the Flag have been popular with your students, grab a copy of Loot. Read it, share it and hope that Watson brings the gang back for a follow-up or two.