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THE MYSTERY OF MEERKAT HILL

From the Precious Ramotswe Mystery series , Vol. 2

Subtly dealing with social issues of poverty, Precious’ second outing as a youngster charms.

Young Precious Ramotswe hones her detective skills with some new friends.

Pontsho and Teb are new in school, and Precious hopes to be their friend. By asking just a few careful questions, Precious finds out a lot. She learns that the children are poor and that their father had been killed by lightning. Precious is sensitive and empathetic, and soon the three—and the siblings’ pet meerkat, Kosi—are fast friends. Kosi is endlessly fascinating and very talented, Precious learns. It takes her keen observational skills and the natural talents of the meerkat to save Pontsho and Teb’s family from disaster. Fast-paced action is interspersed with family stories, making this an especially winning story for very young readers. Occasional direct address to readers harkens back to an earlier storytelling style. Stunning black-and-white illustrations, reminiscent of woodcuts and etchings, grace most spreads, adding an old-fashioned feel to the story. The map of Africa (with Botswana highlighted) on the first page provides welcome information. Precious is sensitive and grounded, open and understanding—perfect qualities for the detective she is destined to be. The mystery is easily solved, but it still requires that readers pay attention to the clues left along the way.

Subtly dealing with social issues of poverty, Precious’ second outing as a youngster charms. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-345-80458-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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FINALLY, SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS

From the One and Onlys series , Vol. 1

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans.

Only children, rejoice! A cozy mystery just for you! (People with siblings will probably enjoy it too.)

Debut novelist Cornett introduces the One and Onlys, a trio of mystery-solving only kids: Gloria Longshanks “Shanks” Hill, Alexander “Peephole” Calloway, and narrator Paul (alas, no nickname) Marconi. The trio has a knack for finding and solving low-level mysteries, but they come up against a true head-scratcher when the yard of a resident of their small town is covered in rubber ducks overnight. Working ahead of Officer Portnoy, who’s a little on the slow side, can Paul, Shanks, and Peephole solve the mystery? Cornett has a lot of fun with this adventure, dropping additional side mysteries, a subplot about small businesses, big corporations, and economics, and a town’s love of bratwurst into the mix. Most importantly, he plays fair with the clues throughout, allowing astute readers to potentially solve the case ahead of the trio. The tone and mystery are perfect for younger readers who want to test their detective skills but are put off by anything scary or gory. The pacing would serve well for chapter-by-chapter read-alouds. If there are any quibbles, it’s the lack of diversity of the cast, as it defaults white. Diversity exists in small towns, and this one is crying out for more. Hopefully a sequel will introduce additional faces.

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3003-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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EVIL SPY SCHOOL THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the Spy School series , Vol. 3

Will satisfy fans but could be better.

Young CIA agent-in-training Benjamin Ripley switches sides—or is he just going undercover?—in this graphic version of the third Spy School caper.

Sticking to the plot of the 2015 original, this episode sees the talented math whiz recruited by nefarious organization SPYDER after being (unjustly, he fumes) kicked out of the CIA’s academy. While training in a hidden school for evildoers with other prospective villains, including Ashley Sparks, a gushy former competitive gymnast with a fondness for portmanteau words (sweet + awesome = swawesome), Ben gets wind of a dastardly scheme to make billions on government construction projects. Hot if inept pursuit by both rival espionage agencies takes Ben from a secret underground command center to the top of the Statue of Liberty. But while the action has a rapid flow in the art (Sarkar is good at portraying fights, high-speed chases, and explosions), several characters are drawn with generic features and such a limited range of expressions that even with help from the cast gallery, it’s hard to tell them apart easily. Still, along with coming through in the suspenseful climax—thanks to clever deductions and quick thinking—by the end, Ben has also achieved a long-sought breakthrough with Erica Hale (code name “Ice Queen”), a superbly omnicompetent schoolmate who has his heart as well as his back. The cast largely presents white.

Will satisfy fans but could be better. (Graphic thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781665931946

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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