The Adventures of the Red Tape Gang by Joan Lowery Nixon, 1974.
Hardcover editions of this book are called The Mysterious Red Tape Gang.
Mike’s father loves to read the newspaper every morning and rant about the stories that make him angry. It annoys him how little gets accomplished because there’s so much “red tape” involved. Take the case of their neighbor, Mr. Hartwell. He has a large bush that’s dangerously close to the corner of their street and has caused several accidents. The city wants him to cut it, but he refuses to do so out of meanness and stubbornness. Now, the city has to go through all kinds of red tape to make it happen.
His father’s rants give Mike an idea. Why not put the new clubhouse he and his friends are working on to good use and form a club to right the wrongs of their neighborhood and make all of that red tape unnecessary? Besides, cutting the Hartwells’ bush in the middle of the night would be a great joke on Mr. Hartwell’s nosy daughter, Linda Jean, who’s always hanging around, getting in the way of Mike and his friends.
Mike’s friends love the idea of being secret neighborhood heroes, but of course, it turns out to be harder than they expected. After trimming the Hartwell’s bush as best they can, they decide that instead of just cutting the bush, it would be better to move it to a completely different spot so there will be no need to cut it again when it grows out. But, then Mr. Hartwell almost catches them in their midnight landscaping, and when Linda Jean finds Mike’s shears, they’re forced to let her into their club.
Their next project, boarding up the doors and windows of an abandoned house so that curious children won’t wander in and get hurt, also comes with complications. It seems that the house wasn’t quite as abandoned as everyone thought. Still, the Red Tape Gang accomplishes something even greater than just keeping kids out of the house and successfully keeps their identities secret. But while they’re congratulating themselves on the wonderful job they’ve been doing, they discover that their neighborhood contains far more serious problems than they originally thought. Their activities are also starting to come to the attention of the wrong people. And, for one member of the group, these problems hit dangerously close to home.
This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. The descriptions of the kids’ midnight excursions are hilarious and make you want to cheer them on!