There are three books by A. B. Syed in the Amazon Kindle store. "Zodiac Shmodiac" is a fantasy with a few nice twists, and "Simon Cup's Box" is an amusing middle grade school days sort of story that's started off with a fantasy angle. I like them both and appreciate the author's light touch. But, while they are amusing stories, the characters aren't terribly memorable. Not so with this volume, which is most definitely my favorite of the three.
Somewhere I read that Syed wanted to write this book about a boy who was completely normal in every way - with no superpowers or magical abilities or fantastical allies or anything of that sort. Starting with that, she has created a wonderfully engaging character. Bruno Penny is a nice kid. He's smart and energetic. He wants to be a great detective some day and so he's always looking for a good mystery to solve. He's inquisitive and observant. He has a magnifying glass and a slightly dense pal who enthusiastically assumes the sidekick role. And get this, he has parents who are smart and grown up, and he likes them and listens to them. He's polite to neighbors, patient, and generous, but he's not an odd goody-two-shoes. He does goofy age appropriate things, but he's always on the alert for adventure and thrilling escapades.
I enjoyed following him around during his thrilling adventure. I imagine young readers would enjoy making his acquaintance. The whole exercise is just cheerful and exciting and interesting enough that I don't see why they wouldn't.
And, the author doesn't try to have it both ways. There aren't any ironic or sarcastic minor notes hidden in the text to demonstrate that the author is really too hip for this sort of thing, (like, say, with Lemony Snicket). The story is unashamedly what it is. And it helps that the author has a decent command of language, understands complex sentences, and has a certain flair for the telling description. So, along with a story your middle grader actually is also exposed to a good, fluid writing style.
I just don't see how it gets much better than that.