Unlike the first two books in this series--The Lemonade War and The Lemonade Crime--this third entry deals primarily with the family and some rather dramatic changes. Like the first two novels, this one deals well with the emotions of the two young protagonists, even as they face situations they do not understand.
Brother and sister Evan and Jessie travel with their mother to their grandmother's house for a New Year's Eve tradition of ringing a bell that their grandmother has placed on a hill near her rustic home. But this year is different. For one thing, the children's 84-year-old grandmother is in the hospital after nearly burning her house down, and for another thing, the bell is missing. While Evan is enlisted to help with the repairs to the house, Jessie joins with an odd local child named Maxwell to try to find the missing bell.
As I assume this review will be read primarily by parents, I urge some caution.
The Bell Bandit deals with some fairly serious themes. The grandmother, for example, appears to be suffering from Alzheimer's, for she has trouble remembering her own grandchildren's names or even recognizing them. Maxwell is also different. As with the grandmother's precise problem, Maxwell's situation is not fully explained or precisely diagnosed, but he appears to have Asperger's syndrome. Finally, there is a scene of animal cruelty that, though thwarted, may make children very uncomfortable. Against this background, the apparent theft of the titular bell seems secondary.
END SPOILER WARNINGS
There is much to recommend in this third entry in The Lemonade War Series, but there is good reason for parents to exercise caution before introducing this to their children, especially those in the middle years of elementary school. I can't make that decision, of course, for others, but I do think parents should read the book first and decide for themselves. (If they do, they'll be rewarded with Get Smart allusions that will probably escape their children's ken.)