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A MIND OF HER OWN by Robyn McGrath


The Story of Mystery Writer Agatha Christie

by Robyn McGrath ; illustrated by Liz Wong

Pub Date: May 28th, 2024
ISBN: 9781665917933
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

A picture-book biography introduces mystery writer Agatha Christie to young readers.

Sheaves of papers and pictures of characters and plot elements swirl around the protagonist as she struggles to translate the stories in her head into a publishable manuscript. These scenes of artistic creation follow depictions of the young girl, then woman, in late-Victorian interiors rendered in sunny pastel hues. Visual easter eggs from Christie’s mystery novels appear here and there, but they will likely be lost on young readers who have not yet encountered the legendary author. Likewise, the plot—curious, observant child grows into determined writer—may also prove less than engaging to youngsters. McGrath’s spare, present-tense text emphasizes her subject’s love of stories and curiosity as a child, then her struggles to bring her observations and ideas into a coherent plot. The techniques she uses—taking notes, exploring characters’ voices, tightening and pacing plots—make for solid advice for budding writers but thin gruel for children hoping for a story. A plot requires conflict, and though young Christie suffered the early loss of her father and discouragement from teachers, McGrath is unable or unwilling to lean into these experiences to deepen her characterization. A two-page biographical note written for an older audience than the primary text provides a fuller picture, underscoring the inadequacy of the effort as a whole.

A fundamental mismatch between book and audience.

(author’s and illustrator’s notes, glossary) (Picture-book biography. 5-8)