New mystery series features growing pains, fun romps for young readers



Former newspaper reporter and public relations manager Beverly James heard a friend complaining about the lack of diversity in children’s literature. Recalling her childhood in Brooklyn, New York, James decided to pursue a dream to write about kids’ and teens’ lives in urban settings.

“I always loved mysteries growing up, but the only offerings were Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys,” James explained. “I knew I could do something that would resonate with today’s young readers, something that they could relate to.”

The newest offering is a series featuring the Soul Sisters, four elementary and middle-grade girls who solve mysteries, and navigate blended families and new friendships—all while seldom leaving their Brooklyn neighborhood.

“Soul Sisters: In the Beginning” is set in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York. Not only is there an urban setting, but the cast of characters is diverse. Main character Lena and her family are African American. Her new friends—sisters Sassy and Perrie—are Puerto Rican, and Perrie’s best friend Ruthie is white.

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“I grew up on Linden Street in Brooklyn, and that one block was our world,” said James, a former newspaper reporter who has also spent decades as a media and public relations professional at colleges and universities. “We solved mysteries, acted out plays and dramas that we wrote and held dance recitals for the adults. It was the happiest of times, and in ‘Soul Sisters,’ I try to capture that sense of imagination and creativity while introducing the neighborhood to the world.”

The first book in the series begins with Lena and her little brother Tony traveling by Greyhound bus from Boston to New York City to be reunited with their mother after a two-year separation. The children’s father died in a tragic accident, leaving the mother destitute and unable to care for Lena and Tony. So, she sends them to live with an aunt in Boston.

Lena, who narrates the story, and Tony are understandably nervous, as their mother has recently married her second husband. As if the trip isn’t tough enough, Tony locks himself in the bus’s bathroom and can’t get out.

“I cannot believe this! We were almost home, and my brother was stuck in the bathroom! God, please make me disappear. Somebody, anybody, please tell me this wasn’t happening. Ugghh!, The bus eased over to the side of the road, and everybody groaned. I wished they’d shut up. I was annoyed too. But he’s my little brother and I couldn’t let him stay stuck in a nasty Greyhound bathroom.

“Then I started to panic. I read once in a newspaper that a lady was using a bathroom on a bus, and when the bus hit a pothole her butt got stuck in the window. Jeez! What if my little brother’s butt was stuck in the window? He could fall out!”

The fun continues when Lena is introduced to Sassy, Perrie and Ruthie, who are eager to meet the new girl on the block. But Mr. Santiago, who lives in the building owned by Lena’s new stepfather, unveils plans at a party to help city officials take over the block, build more expensive housing and squeeze out current residents. Mr. Santiago even plots to build condominiums on the neighborhood’s beloved Linden Street Park, the only patch of grass for miles.

The girls form the Soul Sisters to stop Mr. Santiago and save their neighborhood. Unfortunately, this involves a few white lies, sneaking into a neighbor’s apartment to search for clues and leaving the block without permission.

In the end, the girls manage to save their neighborhood while also uncovering real, adult crimes. But not before Lena and Tony are blindsided by another mystery that hits closer to home.

Readers will enjoy the dynamic plot, which manages to capture the imagination while exploring all the emotions and adjustments of forming new friendships and a new family. Still, the author allows the characters to use their smarts and creativity to find their own solutions.

The biggest treat for readers is that each installment ends with the beginning of the next mystery. According to James, fans of “Soul Sisters” can expect the second novel in the series to be released by the summer.

James is a proud graduate of Howard University and Kennesaw State University. Her journalism career included stints at the Charlotte Observer and the (Delaware) News Journal. James spent her career as a media and public relations professional at the University of Maryland, Emory University School of Law and the University of Florida. She resides in Atlanta with her family.

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Beverly James has spent more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and public relations professional. Her reporting stints took her from the Ashland (Kentucky) Daily Independent to the Charlotte Observer to the (Delaware) News Journal. The Tela, Honduras native has worked as a media and public relations manager at major higher educational institutions, including the University of Maryland Emory University School of Law and the University of Florida.

James holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in professional writing from Kennesaw State University. In her spare time, she enjoys writing middle-grade and young adult novels, traveling and spending time with her daughter. She resides in Atlanta with her family.