Found Family in France: A Review of The Pear Affair

The Pear Affair 
Judith Eagle 
Illustrated by Jo Rioux 
Walker Books US 
May 24, 2022 
Ages 10-14 

Penelope “Nell” Magnificent generally avoids her parents, as they are neglectful and care more about their material possessions and wealth than her. The only genuine love she has felt in her life comes from her au pair, Perrine, who left her five years ago to return to her home city of Paris. Perrine, or Pear as Nell calls her, wrote Nell letters monthly, though six months ago those letters stopped. Nell accompanies  her parents on a trip to Paris, determined to find Pear. Nell memorized the layout of Paris, studying maps and guidebooks, as she trusted that someday Pear would free her from her parents. Nell first looks at Pear’s job and home but is unable to find her. Even worse, the adults she asks for information increasingly appear to have something to hide. Nell befriends Xavier, a young bellhop, who helps her and introduces her to a group of youngsters who are also quick to help as needed. As the group of children works to find clues about Pear’s whereabouts, they uncover a plot tied to the Thing, a mysterious outbreak of mold affecting traditional Parisian bakeries, forcing many family businesses to close. 

Nell’s exploration of her world is fully engrossing, as she pores over the information she has about Paris before embarking on the family trip. Events escalate in a way that maintains suspense, with Nell initially looking for Pear alone but eventually working with a large group to unravel a greater mystery. The secondary characters are young children who roam underground tunnels beneath Paris, resulting in a unique aspect of the city being central to the story. While there are many villainous adults throughout the story, helpful ones are also present, which keeps the story from delving too far into extremes of good and evil in its realistic setting. Occasional black and white illustrations bring key moments to life. This story is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy the journey of watching a mystery become more complex as it marches towards its conclusion, which leads to Nell finding the sense of love and belonging from a found family that now extends beyond Pear.