“Wait!” the story starts, as the unnamed narrator/protagonist—personified as a kid in a bow tie and shorts—explains that someone has stolen the book’s Chapter Two.
Willing to pay any price to get the chapter back—because the book would not be complete otherwise—the narrator/protagonist enlists readers’ help, asking them to contact Detective McGarrigan. True to the narrator/protagonist’s word, the second chapter of the book is missing; readers get a glimpse of faded black type, as if the chapter has been wiped off the page. Turning the page reveals the beginning of Chapter 3, where Milo, the book’s janitor, is in the middle of a diatribe, asking the narrator/protagonist to apologize to him. When the narrator/protagonist refuses, Milo plays with the punctuation on the page and then leaves, grumbling about how no one respects a book’s janitor even though he’s the one who keeps the book clean so it can be read. Enter Detective McGarrigan, an extremely clueless middle-aged woman who tends to misunderstand information and miss clues that are right under her nose. Cue the hilarity as the narrator/protagonist and Detective McGarrigan bumble through wordplay and metatextual references as they try to solve the mystery of the missing chapter. Lieb’s capricious storytelling combines with Cornell’s bold, minimalist cartoons, done in black, white, and saffron, to result in a tale that is at once clever and uproariously funny.
This whodunit is terribly entertaining, guaranteed to engage readers till the very end. (Picture book. 6-10)