A Royal Conundrum (The Misfits #1)

by Lisa Yee (Author) Dan Santat (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Series: The Misfits
When a notorious thief is out for priceless treasure (gems! cats! general decorum!)—who're you gonna call? An elite team of crime-fighting underdogs, that's who! The Misfits are on the case in this hilarious illustrated series from Newbery Honoree Lisa Yee and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat!

“For any kid who’s felt like a misfit, this crackling adventure packs a wallop!” —Lincoln Peirce, creator of Big Nate and Max & the Midknights

Olive Cobin Zang has . . . issues. And they mostly aren’t her fault. (No, really!) Though she often slips under the radar, problems have a knack for finding her. So, imagine her doubts when she’s suddenly dropped off at the strangest boarding school ever: a former castle turned prison that's now a “reforming arts school”!

But nothing could’ve prepared Olive for RASCH (not “rash”). There, she’s lumped with a team of other kids who never quite fit in, and discovers that the academy isn’t what it seems—and neither is she. In fact, RASCH is a cover for an elite group of misfits who fight crime . . . and Olive has arrived just in time.

Turns out that RASCH is in danger of closing, unless Olive’s class can stop the heist of the century. And as Olive falls in love with this wacky school, she realizes it’s up to her new team to save the only home that’s ever welcomed them.
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There are hilarious high jinks and outlandish plot points aplenty, plus an astonishingly inventive array of technology that would make even James Bond jealous.

Kirkus Reviews

A fantastical blend of quirky characters and goofy adventures.

Publishers Weekly

Ever since her grandmother Mimi's death, East Asian American tween Olive Cobin Zhang--who "never fit in" at school and hardly sees her busy parents--has felt especially alone. Worse, her mother abruptly sends her to a former castle that had been turned into a prison before being converted into a "reforming arts school." But the prestigious boarding school is a cover; soon, Olive is recruited for an experimental group of covert child operatives to serve as the eyes and ears of the pseudo-government crime-fighting organization No One Can Know, or NOCK. She quickly befriends fellow operative and computer genius Philomena, as well as tough girl Iggy, bookworm James, and laid-back Theo; together, they deem themselves the Misfits. Yee (Maizy Chen's Last Chance) builds suspense in this spy-adjacent series opener by utilizing an immediate feeling third-person perspective to depict Olive's grief over Mimi and attempts to make friends while contending with secretive and dangerous circumstances. An in media res opening alongside expressive and animated b&w pencil illustrations by Santat (A First Time for Everything) add dynamism to the text and heighten the rapidly paced narrative. One of the Misfits wears a hijab and another is Black; other supporting characters are depicted with varying skin tones. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7--Olive Cobin-Zang's parents are on another one of their business trips, and Olive is off to...reform school? She knows she hasn't always made the best decisions, but this seems a bit extreme. Then she sees RASCH (Reforming Arts School) for the first time, a mystical island campus that emerges from the fog, and she is even more confused. What is this place and why is she here? Strangely, when Olive is placed in what initially appears to be a class of leftovers, she starts to feel a part of something. Soon, Olive and her fellow misfits realize that there might be something extraordinary about themselves after all. In the meantime, a series of high-end jewelry heists have swept across San Francisco and threaten some of RASCH's most important benefactors. If Olive and her friends can't put a stop to these thefts, not only will RASCH lose its money, but Olive might lose the only place that has felt like home in a very long time. Readers will be quick to follow Olive and her diverse friend group as they chase actors/pirates/thieves, search for priceless pastries, and hunt down jeweled cat collars. With quick pacing and over-the-top action, this humorous caper is full of plot twists and zany antics. At times, the pacing may move too quickly, not giving readers enough time to absorb the action or build more suspense. However, the clever clues and outrageous antics will be enough to pull readers through the pages and into the story. VERDICT Clever and funny, this rousing mystery-adventure will be a hit with a wide audience.--Louie Lauer

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Full of heart and humor with twisty turns and unforgettable underdogs. Just like the priceless jewels the team is trying to protect, this book is a total gem. You'll wish you were a misfit too. — James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of City Spies 

A Royal Conundrum....is action, adventure, and fun with a group of young underdogs worth rooting for. The Misfits are a team of heroes for the outcast in everyone. — Shelf Awareness
Lisa Yee
Lisa Yee has taken a private-investigator course, and it's slightly possible that she's a secret undercover operative. She's also a Newbery Honoree and a National Book Award finalist for Maizy Chen's Last Chance. Some of her other twenty-one novels are the groundbreaking Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time; and the DC Super Hero Girls series. A frequent contributor to NPR's Books We Love, she divides her time between Western Massachusetts and Los Angeles.

Dan Santat is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of over a hundred books. His picture book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend received the Caldecott Medal. He also illustrated The Blur, Lift, and Drawn Together, both written by Minh Lê, which received critical acclaim. Dan is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. He lives in Southern California with his family. Learn more at dansantatbooks.com or visit him on Instagram and Twitter @dsantat.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 02, 2024
The Misfits
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV021000 - Juvenile Fiction | Law & Crime
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
Library of Congress categories
Mystery and detective stories
Detective and mystery fiction
Boarding schools

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