“Viva Durant and The Secret of the Silver Buttons” by Ashli St. Armant is an imaginative girl detective story that combines music and mystery. An interview with the author will be available soon at shelit.com.
Visiting from California, Viva Durant is a teen girl who arrives in New Orleans bored by her grandmother’s seemingly simple life of running errands. Grams doesn’t want to explore New Orleans because she lives there, but Viva feels there’s so much mystique in the city that she has to explore the most exciting parts like the French Quarter. One day, Grams gives Viva a newspaper to read where Viva discovers an article about a man looking for his great-aunt’s secret treasure that could be worth a lot of money. What sticks out to Viva is the man saying the Miss Mary Mack nursery rhyme is about his ancestor and the rhyme has clues about where the treasure is, but he needed help analyzing the lyrics to crack the code. Intrigued by the backstory, Viva uses her trips into the city for Grams’ shopping list to head to various landmarks to string together the clues about “Miss Mary Mack.”
The music is creatively blended into the story during pivotal moments, especially in between chapters. Giving a history to the Miss Mary Mack rhyme on top of making it into a treasure hunt spells out an entertaining audiobook. There are moments where it feels like the mystery will stop with a questionable clue, but Viva moves forward with the clue anyway and finds better clues that bring her closer to the secret location of the silver buttons. The narrator, Bahni Turpin, also delivers the best rhythm for the childish voice of Viva.
Overall, the audiobook is perfect for a girl, especially a girl of color, interested in mystery and history.