THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY

PRECIOUS RAMOTSWE'S VERY FIRST CASE

One case where an adaptation from an adult book is as much fun to read as the original.

How did Precious Ramotswe, the detective in the bestselling The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, get her start?

McCall Smith has penned the story of Precious’ very first case, taken on when she was just a schoolgirl. Someone has been stealing bread and sweets from the children’s lunches and one round boy, Poloko, is accused of the crime. Precious has a knack for people, and she trusts Poloko’s story, even when his sticky fingers point to guilt. Filling his story with fully realized secondary characters and a sumptuous Botswanan setting, McCall Smith creates the same warm community in this series that his adult readers appreciate. Readers see Precious’ understanding of human nature and powers of observation. The stunning artwork in this chapter book has the look of woodcuts and old-time three-color separation illustration. It extends the story, immersing readers in the village life of Botswana. When a new character is introduced, McIntosh explores either the actual name or its pronunciation in bold red capital letters. A compelling plot and interesting secondary characters, especially classmates who are quick to make unfounded accusations and their teacher, who provides wisdom just when it is needed, will leave readers wanting more.

One case where an adaptation from an adult book is as much fun to read as the original. (Mystery. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-94944-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

THE LOST LIBRARY

A page-turner with striking characters and a satisfying puzzle at its heart.

A boy who visits a little free library gets more than he bargained for when he becomes a sleuth caught up in the middle of his town’s most enduring mystery.

Ever since a tragic fire destroyed the Martinville Library, the town has been left without a place to borrow books. That is, until a little free library suddenly pops up, guarded by a fluffy orange cat named Mortimer. Fifth grader Evan McClelland selects two books from its shelves. Inside them he finds puzzling clues that lead him to chase down the real story behind the library fire. The book is told from multiple perspectives, including those of Evan, Mortimer, and ghost librarian Al, who perished in the blaze and is responsible for the upkeep of the little free library. Evan’s tenacious and curious character is relatable. His relationship with likable best friend Rafe, a brave, kind boy with overprotective parents, is easily one of the most endearing parts of the story. The puzzle over the library fire, a secret involving Evan’s family, a popular writer’s connection to Martinville, and the supernatural elements are presented in ways that are just right for middle-grade readers. The pacing is strong, and the twists and turns are satisfying even if perceptive readers may catch hints of the ultimate truth along the way. Physical descriptions of the human characters are largely absent.

A page-turner with striking characters and a satisfying puzzle at its heart. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9781250838810

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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