Twelve-year-old March lives a different life. He’s the son of Alfie McQuin, a notorious jewel thief. One night in Amsterdam, a heist goes horribly wrong and March watches his father fall from a rooftop. Before he dies, Alfie manages to say a few words to March: “Find jewels.” Or did he say, “Find Jules”?

March discovers that he has a twin sister named Jules. The two of them are offered a job to steal back seven precious moonstones for seven million dollars. With the help of two more misfit kids, they plan a series of robberies staying just ahead of the law and the other thieves that want the stones too. The moonstones are believed to be jinxed. Their mother died trying to steal them ten years ago and now their father is dead too. Will the moonstones claim March and Jules as their next victims?

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure if I thought it was appropriate for kids to be cast as thieves and that lifestyle glamorized, but Jude Watson handles it well by giving it a Robin Hood feel. She also shows how that lifestyle is not glamorous at all and how March and Jules wishes they had a normal life with a normal family. The kids vs. bad adults is done well too.

Young readers will love the fast-paced action and the edge-of-your-seat excitement as the kids barely avoid capture over and over again. They will also love how the March, Jules and their friends decipher the clues.

As for MG writers, I think you should read LOOT for a plotting and pacing lesson. Watson’s chapters are very, very short. Each chapter is basically one scene and the scenes fit together like waves in a tidal pool. First is a calm scene as the kids plan their next heist. The tension builds in the next scene as they prepare to strike and then one or two scenes of high-action during the robbery. This pattern takes place within the bigger story arc as March learns to trust his sister and the mystery unfolds. The short chapters also create a sense of urgency because time seems to pass too fast for the kids to make their do-or-die deadline.

LOOT is a wonderful page-turner with the added bonus of character depth and development as well. And it has a great ending.