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The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  830 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
Answering an advertisement for an artist's assistant involves seventeen-year-old Dickory Dock in several mysteries and their ultimate solutions.
Paperback, 172 pages
Published August 1st 1981 by Avon/Camelot (first published 1975)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jessica
This is a sophisticated mystery that takes little readers seriously. I read about a trillion Agatha Christies when I was a child, and those are written for grownups but I remember this kids' book being way more emotionally compelling and intellectually layered... though you know, Agatha Christie had much cleverer mysteries and all that, and this isn't at all to malign her, only to say that Ellen Raskin really produced some very unique, brainy, and heartfelt books for children. All her stuff was ...more
Melissa McShane
I don't quite love this as much as I do The Westing Game, but it's awfully close. It's a strange hybrid of middle grade and YA fiction, middle grade for the structure and prose, YA for the content (the main character is an older teen in art school, but sounds younger than she is). Dickory Dock (named by parents who presumably loved her) lives in a tenement with her brother and his wife; to earn money to support herself, she takes a job with the slick, carefree artist Garson. Garson's art is faci ...more
Jeremy
Dec 26, 2008 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is clever
Shelves: books-of-2008
The most mature of Ellen Raskin's mysteries (though I'm not sure why I feel this way, maybe because Dickory was much older than me the first time I read it, whereas Turtle, and the Carrillon twins were more peers). This book is beautifully constructed, and I was pleased to be able to share it this time, by reading it out loud to my sister on Christmas.

Ellen was just fantastic at making names count, always, and I can't ever say, "I am Christina Rosetti," without tearing up. This time as I read it
...more
Anushka R.
Feb 16, 2017 Anushka R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book! Especially the ending, it is so cute and a bit heartbreaking at the same time! I recommend this book to anyone who has read the Westing Game.
William Leight
Mar 15, 2015 William Leight rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues” is, I think, just as good as “The Westing Game” in its own way, a Pinkwateresque mystery story with a dash of Gordon Korman. The central mystery here is just as clever and complex as that in “The Westing Game”, only Raskin is mostly far less serious about it. Instead, she takes the chance to make fun of the Great Detective genre: the detective, Garson, and his assistant and our heroine, Dickory Dock (her brother’s name is Donald), deliberately poke fun at th ...more
Jess
Apr 18, 2014 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read The Tattooed Potato when I was about 11 years old and discovered Ellen Raskin in the shelves of my school's library. I tore through everything they had (including The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)), and after nearly 30 years they still rank among my favorite pieces of juvenile fiction. My eldest son, now 11 years old, brought TTP to me the other day to tell me that he had read it and really enjoyed it, which led me to re-read it. It is still as ...more
Terry
Apr 08, 2015 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s, fiction
I read this book because one of my dear friends was FURIOUS WITH ME for not having read it! And I'm glad I did. We did have a good discussion about the ways children's literature has changed since our childhood. This writing reminded me a great deal of The Phantom Tollbooth and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so if those books are your jam, you'll most likely very much enjoy Raskin's book, if you haven't already loved it since your childhood.

I'm not arguing that children's
...more
Insouciantly
I read this book as a child, loved it, and promptly forgot about it, as children do. Then, about a week ago, I got a text message from my sister that was something along the lines of "Do you remember a book we read as kids that was something abouta girl named Hickory Dock? And there's a van gogh painting involved somehow?" And light begins to dawn... "Oh, that's right! And something about a potato?" After much google searching of "YA mystery hickory dock van gogh potato" I FOUND IT. And of cours ...more
Beth
Sep 12, 2015 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book is a very strange beast. It's got a sort of mad genius (compared to, say, The Westing Game, which has a sort of restrained genius) and it careens wildly through details, dropping clues which end up fitting together too neatly and ridiculously - that prison scene at the end, for example, and the names of the police officers.

That said, there's a sprightliness in the madness that keeps the book feeling very alive, and there's also a running commentary on art - and art schools - that zings
...more
Kate
Jul 23, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile
Another fun, slightly melancholy puzzle-mystery by Raskin. The part that has always stuck with me is when Garson trains Dickory to identify in all his studio guests the one characteristic they cannot conceal, that will always signal their true identity. I think I was a little too young for the complexity of this book when I read it (a hundred times), and would like to revisit it again. Hopefully my old copy is somewhere safe, as the book is now, sadly, out of print.
Alan
Aug 14, 2014 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-ever
Don't let the Young Adult category dissuade you from enjoying this gem. The second YA book to make it to my Top Ten of all time list. The ending is both heartwarming and thought provoking. The reader is drawn into considering how human reaction to an artist's interpretation of a person in a portrait can lead to unintended consequences - tragic and hopeful.

The language and dialogue is playful, witty, clever and just plain old laugh-out-loud funny.
Kris
Sep 02, 2008 Kris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
One of my favorite kid books to reread. It's another puzzle/mystery which deals with the way the world is (not always happy along the way, but happy in the end) on a kid level but not stupidly. It will surprise you and make you smile (over the top at points), but then, sometimes that's a nice change.
Jaimi Rachelle
This book just reminded me again why Ellen Raskin is so amazing. It was light, easy-to-read, yet stayed somehow mature. After reading 'The Westing Game' earlier this year she was boosted to my number one author. 'The Tattooed Potato and other Clues' has solidified her position.
Leah Coffin
Jun 01, 2014 Leah Coffin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I like this one even more than The Westing Game. Dickory is certainly one of my favorite literary heroines.
Paul
Jun 24, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remembered how much I loved Ellen Raskin books years ago, and decided to read one I'd never read before. Silly and fun.
Elizabeth
I loved this book so much I stole it from the library. A great puzzle mystery.
Yoon
Jul 01, 2007 Yoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Quirky, episodic, and genuinely mysterious, with a darkly wry sense of humor.
Liane
Feb 18, 2017 Liane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-books
Loved this book as a kid. Re-read it as a grown-up and still love it.
Katie Fitzgerald
This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues is one of the odd mystery novels Ellen Raskin wrote prior to The Westing Game. The main character is 17-year-old art student Dickory Dock, who lives in Greenwich Village with her brother and sister-in-law. At the start of the story, she takes a job as a painter's assistant to an artist named Garson, who works from his home at 12 Cobble Lane. Other residents of the building include such odd characters as Man
...more
Jenny
Jul 22, 2013 Jenny rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Jennifer
Shelves: story, tween
Dickory Dock lives the life of many typical art students—she lives in New York in a crowded walk-up, sleeps on an uncomfortable couch in the living room of her brother and his wife (and they don’t get along with one another), flirts with the sweet but awkward boy in her abstract art class while enduring extreme criticism from her art teacher, constantly steps overs bums, and dreams about living in her own Greenwich Village loft and studio. She becomes the assistant to Garcon, a hack portrait pai ...more
Becky B
Dickory Dock, potentially starving art student, finds herself a job working for the mediocre portrait artist Garson who also moonlights as a detective. Occasionally even the chief of police drops in to consult Garson on a case. Soon, Dickory finds herself not only cleaning up paint supplies, but bending her brain cells to solve cases with Garson. But the biggest mystery is what in the world is going on in Garson's house? He has two borders who are rather peculiar and shady characters. One of the ...more
Suzie
Apr 02, 2010 Suzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ya-and-kids
Children's mystery novel from the author of 'The Westing Game' set in New York City. Art student Dickory Dock becomes an assistant to artist Garson. Garson also has Dickory assist him when he consults with the police in cases that require a keen eye for observation. The interesting thing about this book is that it is very external, and does not rely on internal monologues. It is a literary technique that extolls its main point: being observant of what people are doing is an important skill that ...more
Kaitlyn
Very good but very interesting!!!!
Drew
Dec 16, 2008 Drew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book twice as a kid, and had no idea what was going on through most of it. When I found a cheap ebook copy, I decided to give it another shot.

The basic plot is that a young art student named Dickory Dock gets a job as an assistant to Garson, the rich and famous (but 3rd-rate) portrait painter. One night at a party, Garson has too much to drink, and he lectures a stranger on artists' natural ability to see through deceptions. The stranger turns out to be the chief of police, who begin
...more
Julie
Oct 13, 2015 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Westing Game is one of my all-time favorite children’s books, and many people seem to think this one is just as good. I disagree. I love Raskin’s writing. You can perfectly picture everything she describes and the story just comes to life as though you were there. I found that to be true in this one as well as in The Westing Game, but this one failed to capture my heart. This time I found all the disguises a little too hokey and I was always looking for the pieces to fit together instead of ...more
Chandrakrit
Apr 30, 2014 Chandrakrit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think that this was a good book because I saw more examples of showing and not telling. So it wasn’t like “ Dickory was shocked when she found out Garson was being arrested! ”. It was more like “ “ What? ” Dickory Shouted as Detective finkel took Garson by the arm.” - pg 146. Another thing that I liked about this book is that even though it had different mysteries, when you would finish a chapter and start a new one it still had the same relationships and characters.

Reflecting upon the writing
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Laura
How observant are you? That's the question Garson asks of the unfortunately named Dickory Dock, his new assistant. Garson's a painter - somewhat slick, not particularly insightful - who owns a townhouse in Greenwich Village. Soon after Dickory starts, Garson moves to the top two floors, leaving the ground floor to Manny Mallomar and Shrimps Marinara, and Isaac, the disfigured deaf-mute.

Dickory's life becomes more complicated when Inspector Quinn asks Garson's help solving a mystery... and then a
...more
Meghan
Feb 18, 2012 Meghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
I LOVE The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and so I was very excited to find this gem at an independent book store in Iowa City. Although not as good as The Westing Game, it was exciting and interesting.

Dickory Dock takes a job as a painter's assistant and in doing so finds herself wrapped up in various mysteries. As is Raskin's usual MO, not a single person is who they seem and characters change names and identifying markers on a constant basis. It was fun to try to out guess what was happening.

I
...more
Robin
Ellen Raskin sure does have a preoccupation with disguise and loyalty in her children's mysteries. This was fun, but The Westing Game is miles better -- a more elegant and logic-bound premise, slow-building puzzles, and realistic characters there. In contrast, the absurd antics and bizarre mix of jokes and violence in this one remind me almost of Jane Austen's juvenilia, except of course for the 1970s NYC mysterious artist's studio setting.
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Ellen Raskin was a writer, illustrator, and designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She primarily wrote for children. She received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.

Ms. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books, including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A W
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