The Case of the Stolen Sixpence is the first in the Maisie Hitchins mysteries series by Holly Webb. Maisie is 12 years old and lives with her grandmotThe Case of the Stolen Sixpence is the first in the Maisie Hitchins mysteries series by Holly Webb. Maisie is 12 years old and lives with her grandmother in the boarding house she owns and operates. Maisie desperately wants to be a detective like the famous Gilbert Carrington. When George, the butcher's delivery boy, is fired for stealing Maisie is sure he didn't do it. And she sets out to prove his innocence by finding the true culprit.
With her rambunctious dog Eddie, determination and deductive reasoning Maisie begins her first real detective case. She is helped along the way by the eccentric old man and an actress who live in the boarding house as well as a young friend. The scene in which she disguises herself convincingly as an old woman will have young readers falling over themselves with delighted laughter.
The Case of the Stolen Sixpence is a perfectly crafted mystery for ages 6-9. The plot is simple enough to follow without being ridiculously easy to solve. The characters are funny and interesting and easy to relate to. I highly recommend this as a read-aloud at home for bedtime or in a primary classroom. I look forward to reading more of the series. ...more
Delightfully slapstick in nature The Chicken Squad builds on the tiny, comical characters who first appear in The Trouble with Chickens, the originalDelightfully slapstick in nature The Chicken Squad builds on the tiny, comical characters who first appear in The Trouble with Chickens, the original J.J. Tully mystery. A perfect graduation from her brilliant picture books, these short, easy chapter books by Doreen Cronin (of Click, Clack, Moo fame) provide an ideal bridge for young readers.
J.J. Tully, the retired police dog from Trouble with Chickens introduces the story and makes a short--but pivotal--appearance in the climax of the Chicken Squad plot. The majority of the story surrounds Moosh the Chicken's four offspring (Dirt, Sugar, Poppy & Sweetie) as they mobilize to help Tail the Squirrel when he sees "something big and scary in the yard."
UFOs, a squirrel who repeatedly insists he is brave but continuously faints from fear, chicks licking each other and rolling in grass clippings for camouflage and tons of silly, clever dialogue will have young readers (and those of us who read it to them) giggling like crazy. With absurdly witty exchanges like:
"Dirt, you take the helium and stick with Tail. He's going to show you where the UFO landed. Send up the balloon when you get there. That's our target everyone!"
"Wait," said the squirrel. "Wouldn't it be easier to just blow up the balloon here instead of dragging a helium tank all the way across the yard?"
Sugar let out a heavy sigh.
"You can't camouflage yourself and then walk around with a giant, orange balloon!" snapped Sugar. "Think, squirrel, think!"
"Wow," said the squirrel. "You guys are good."
The Chicken Squad will be a HUGE winner as a read-aloud or independent reading choice in a classroom or at home.
Kevin Cornwell's illustrations are just as wonderfully quirky as the Chicken Squad, themselves. Although the illustration are in black-and-white they are presented with an incredible depth of gray shades, making them as vibrant as the best color panels in picture books. Combined with the engaging text Cornwell's work only enhances the transitional aspect The Chicken Squad offers young and growing readers!
On a teaching note for home or classroom: When Tail tries to describe what he has seen to the Chicken Squad he says only that it is "big and scary." Dirt and Sugar have an ongoing exchange with him, building from chapter to chapter to help him find more specific, detailed ways to describe what he ahs seen. This is a great springboard for lessons/discussions on adjectives and writing for older (3rd grade) readers/writers and as a language experience in 1st and 2nd grade. ...more
Lantern Sam is a dual narrative: one part told by 10-year-old Henry Shipley and one told in flashback by Lantern Sam (a male calico cat). Henry's narrLantern Sam is a dual narrative: one part told by 10-year-old Henry Shipley and one told in flashback by Lantern Sam (a male calico cat). Henry's narration relates the events on the Shoreliner (a famous express train taking passengers from New York to Chicago--960 miles--in less than 20 hours) in 1938 when he and Sam first meet, while Sam's story is his autobiography up to the point where he meets Henry.
Henry, his mother and baby sister are traveling home to Ashtabula, Ohio after a rare trip to New York. In the Observation Car he meets wealthy young Ellie Strasbourg on her way to ride the brand new Blue Streak Roller Coaster. Clarence Nockwood (the porter) gives them a tour of the train during which they meet Clarence's cat, Lantern Sam. Henry realizes almost immediately that he can hear Sam speak. Both children are passionate about detective stories like Dick Tracy and Nancy Drew and they discover that Lantern Sam has been involved in detective escapades aboard the Shoreliner. When Ellie is kidnapped on the train and held for ransom Sam and Henry--with some help from Clarence--must solve the crime.
Henry tells the story of their adventure together and Sam tells of his life before meeting Henry in alternating chapters. Henry's story is engaging and well-paced; Sam's narrative drags on a little too much for me. Sam relates his many close calls with death and danger(using up eight of his "nine lives"). Although the final two of Sam's stories were interesting and enjoyable to read, I would have preferred to have Henry and Sam's adventure on the Shoreliner as the ONLY story. Sam's history truly wasn't necessary as his character is well-developed and clearly crafted.
The mystery and detective adventure on the train is exciting and grows steadily in suspense and danger. While it contains 'red herrings' for its targeted young readers the plot is clearly defined and its resolution is both pleasing and satisfying. As an adult reader I could see where the plot was going without much trouble, but I have more experience reading mysteries than the target audience for Lantern Sam, who I believe will thoroughly enjoy the adventure.
Age-appropriate danger and logic, a flawlessly constructed plot and vivid characters, Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits is a nice choice for a read-aloud or independent read for ages 7 or 8 to 12yrs who enjoy remarkable animal characters, mystery and adventure. ...more
Wilma Tenderfoot wants to be a detective. When she is shipped off as a ward to Mrs. Waldock who requires Wilma to do bizarre (and often disgusting) chWilma Tenderfoot wants to be a detective. When she is shipped off as a ward to Mrs. Waldock who requires Wilma to do bizarre (and often disgusting) chores with the threat of returning her to the Lowside Institute for Woeful Children and Mrs. Scratch who has no fondness for Wilma. When Wilma comes across an abandoned beagle she names Pickle you want to cheer because she has found someone to love that who loves her back wholly and unconditionally.
It turns out that Wilma's new residence is next door to the famous detective Theodore P. Goodman. Wilma has read all of Goodman's published work: accounts of cases he has solved and tips for being a good detective. She can--and does--quote them verbatim. Often.
When a precious jewel disappears and Theodore P. Goodman is called in on the case Wilma sees her chance to prove herself to the famous detective and convince him to take her on as an apprentice. The supporting characters are strong stock characters in a mystery: a bumbling, big-hearted Inspector, an evil street-smart villain, an outwardly cranky (but secretly loveable) housekeeper, Wilma's horrible guardian and more. The mystery itself provides plenty of 'red herrings' (clues that lead you to suspect the wrong culprit) as well as suspenseful and sometimes dangerous adventure.
Wilma Tenderfoot is an engaging and entertaining mix of Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes and Clementine (by Sara Pennypacker). Wilma is easy to love and root for throughout her misadventures. The situations in which she finds herself are often humorous with occasional laugh-out-loud moments. This is an especially good read-aloud for grades 3-4 with a little spill-over on both sides of that, depending on the reader.
I thoroughly enjoyed Wilma Tenderfoot and the case of the Frozen Hearts and have, in fact, already grabbed the second in the series from the library. A fun combination of humor, mystery and adventure this is a superb choice as we move into summer reading as either a read-aloud or independent choice! ...more
Walter Dean Myers is perhaps better known to older readers for his poetry and works of young adult fiction. Some young readers will remember that WaltWalter Dean Myers is perhaps better known to older readers for his poetry and works of young adult fiction. Some young readers will remember that Walter Dean Myers is the poet who inspired the young boy in Sharon Creech's phenomenal Love That Dog.
Smiffy Blue is a goofy mixture of Sam Spade, Batman and Sherlock Holmes. Along with his assistant Jeremy Joe and his trusty dog, Dog, Smiffy is often called in by Inspector Hector of Doober City for solve their current crisis. In this volume of four stories Smiffy investigates the thefts of: a secret formula, a racehorse, the Mayor's yacht and a valuable ruby.
His cases lead Smiffy all over the city following obscure clues. He and Jeremy Joe must question suspects and witnesses alike: Dr. Seymour Orless who owns the glasses store; Penny Stampp at the Post Office; Cheri Pye at the bakery; and Chubby Checkin, the hotel clerk. These silly puns will have young readers giggling even as they groan (likewise for any adults!)
Smiffy has an effective tagline for beginning readers each time he discovers a clue:
Smiffy Blue smiled. It was a shy smile. It was a sly smile. It was the kind of a smile that Smiffy Blue smiled when he had found a clue
This is repeated throughout each story in a formula which emphasizes each crazy clue Smiffy discovers. Smiffy always catches the criminal. The solutions to the mysterious crimes at the hands of Smiffy's deductive skills are equally ridiculous and will have young readers snorting with laughter.
Smiffy Blue, Ace Detective is a joyous, silly romp of a book. Readers ages 6-9 will LOVE these stories as a read-aloud or an independent reading choice!
**I also highly recommend Myers' picture book Looking Like Me and his older juvenile series The Cruisers. ...more
Lake of Skulls: A Knight's Story is the first in another series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, perhaps better known for The Edge Chronicles. TheyLake of Skulls: A Knight's Story is the first in another series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, perhaps better known for The Edge Chronicles. They have also collaborated on the thrilling--sometimes terrifying--Barnaby Grimes series and one of my new favorites, the delightfully hysterical fantasy of Muddle Earth.
This particular story is narrated by a "free lance" knight, meaning he does not work for one particular king or wealthy master. He travels instead from place to place on his horse, Jed, participating in various village jousts and tournaments. In this way he earns his living.
In Lake of Skulls our hero comes upon a town run by and unpleasant-looking (and smelling) lard. (Our knight dubs him Lord Big Nose.) Although he would prefer to bypass the town, one of Jed's horseshoes is loose. This must be fixed and the next town is too far away. He seeks overnight shelter for himself and his horse. In the tavern Lord Big nose, along with his crossbow-laden guards, strikes a bargain wherein our Knight will travel to an island in the Lake of Skulls and retrieve the enchanted crown that sits there atop a mountain of skulls. The Knight's quest and its consequences are related at breakneck speed, barely pausing in suspense long enough to breathe.
Like their Barnaby Grimes series, Stewart and Riddell ride the line of gruesome in masterful fashion. There is just enough detail to be creepy and a LITTLE scary, but not so much as to give one nightmares. If you like stories of knights and battles, good versus evil, or just a heart-stopping adventure packed into very few pages, this is the book for you!
This might be a good read-aloud choice to get a reluctant independent reader hooked on an action story that has three other books following in the series. All are relatively short and have decent size print, which help a young reader avoid becoming overwhelmed visually before he or she even opens the book. ...more
Danger in the Dark is the story of Nathaniel Makeworthy Fuller IV. Nathan is almost 13 years old when we meet him at the beginning of the story. He isDanger in the Dark is the story of Nathaniel Makeworthy Fuller IV. Nathan is almost 13 years old when we meet him at the beginning of the story. He is the only son of his widowed mother, Deborah, and they live with Nathan's deaceased father's Aunt Alice--and have since Nathan's birth and his father's death. Aunt Alice has always been a bit severe and it has never been a cheerful home, but with the advent of a new (and frequent) visitor to the home things have turned decidedly worse.
The new visitor is David Douglas Trane. Nathan cannot put his finger on what it is about Trane that so alarms him and he is not exactly sure what it is Mr. Trane is doing in these secretive meetings in the salon with his great-aunt and his mother, but he knows they both look sadder and more worried than before.
That summer, for the first time, instead of playing at the beach Nathan is hired out to a friend of Aunt Alice's to learn about business. Nathan becomes a "dogsbody"--the lowest clerk in a shop sho must do all the drudgery work--at Bennett & Son Gentlemen's Hatters. It is in the course of this employ that Nathan meets the great Harry Houdini.
Sent by his superior to the Houdini home to collect payment Nathan meets Bess and Harry Houdini face-to-face. Both Houdinis take a liking to the young boy--whom Houdini quickly christens "Nate." Nate unburdens himself to the Houdinis that afternoon about Mr. Trane and his family. The Houdinis quickly realize that Trane is a medium, someone who purports to be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead--in this case, with Aunt Alice's dead husband Arthur and her beloved nephew (Nate's father). The Houdinis fear for the safety of Nate and his family and immediately launch into action to help them.
Harry Houdini, in real life, believed it was his mission to reveal as many of these fraudulent mediums as possible. He was appalled at the idea of vulnerable, grieving people being bilked of their savings by unscrupulous swindlers who took advantage of the real pain which enveloped these individuals.
Lalicki accurately and believeably entwines Houdini's zeal for ferreting out these criminals, his well-known affection for children (one of his and Bess' greatest disappointments was that they had no children themselves) and his magnetic personality with the lives of Nate and his family.
The plot is tightly constructed and PACKED with exciting action, danger and suspense. The result is an excellent mystery/adventure with a likeable young hero and a perfect historical representation of Harry Houdini, exaggerated just the right amount to portray him as Nate's mentor, champion and friend.
I will caution those who would like to use it as a read-aloud that there is one moment (about 3/4 of a page) where Nate & Houdini have a discussion about the word "bastard" when Nate uses it in correct context and Houdini lectures him about the crudeness, inappropriateness and lack of necessity to use that particular word. If I was reading it aloud I would simply skip that part completely and continue: it is a nice male role model moment for Houdini and Nate but the plot loses nothing by omitting it.
I highly recommend this for readers who enjoy suspenseful mystery and adventure--and for anyone who is interested in or already has knowledge of Harry Houdini. Sid Fleischman's biography of Houdini The Great Escape Artist is an excellent companion piece to this story. (Lalicki has a biography out of Houdini as well, but it is not particularly well done--his fictional work far surpasses it.) ...more
The Case of the Deadly Desperados is the first in a new Western Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence. The year is 1862 and our main character P.K. (PThe Case of the Deadly Desperados is the first in a new Western Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence. The year is 1862 and our main character P.K. (Pinky) Pinkerton has just turned 12 years old two days before we meet him. Pinky tells us the first part of his story as he writes it deep in one of the Comstock silver mines of the Nevada mountains where is is sure he will die.
On the afternoon of his twelfth birthday Pinky comes home to discover his foster parents have been attacked and scalped. His foster father is already dead but his foster mother lives a few minutes after he discovers her. She lives long enough to tell him she and her husband were not attacked by Indians but by white men disguised as Indians and to take the medicine bag given him by his biological mother and run for safety. She makes him promise her: (1) he will never take another life--not even of those who committed this crime; (2) he will forgive those who committed this act;(3) he will not gamble; and (4) he will not drink hard liquor. Pinky promises. Immediately following his promise, the desperados who killed his foster parents come back.
Pinky realizes the killers were after the paper his biological mother gave to him which deeds the bearer a great deal of land in the mountains of the silver-rich Comstock mines. Pinky flees the tiny town of Temperance for the Big City but is pursued by the Desperados. Pinky soon discovers that the man who is chasing him is none other than Whittlin' Walt--one of the most dangerous and feared killers in the West.
Pinky is determined to sell his claim in order to book passage on a stagecoach to Chicago. Now that he has no family he intends to go to the Pinkerton Detective Agency run by his biological uncle and ask for a job. Pinky has two big obstacles: (1) he is half-Caucasian and half-Lacota Indian which sets him up for mistreatment and discrimination in the 19th Century Old West; and (2)his inability to read other people--he has trouble judging when others are sincere and when they are deceiving him. This particular obstacle results in several missteps that bring Pinky repeatedly into mortal danger.
The story is fast-paced with one cliffhanger after another. Pinky is genuine, smart, funny and good-hearted. He is a hero for whom it is easy to cheer. I thoroughly enjoyed Pinky's tale. If you like adventure and mystery then The Case of the Deadly Desperados is for you!
NOTE: Parents and teachers be aware that--although not frequent--there is historically appropriate language in the story that we now acknowledge as offensive, as well as a scene in an opium house. All language and scenes are handled appropriately but may require discussion with young readers for definition and to specify context. ...more
I read this as a bedtime story with my kids. The main character, Steve Brixton, is a drop-dead fan of the Bailey Brothers Detective Series of books (kI read this as a bedtime story with my kids. The main character, Steve Brixton, is a drop-dead fan of the Bailey Brothers Detective Series of books (kind of like the Hardy Boys—i.e. slightly outdated in terminology and theory). Steve does indeed have a gift for deduction—and proves it by inadvertently solving a baffling crime for his mother’s new boyfriend—a police detective, who dismisses Steve’s theory only to have it proved correct later on.
It firmly held the attention of my 8 & 9 year old. Chapters often end with skillful cliffhangers. There’s a nice little dash of intrigue surrounding the secret identity of librarians in the United States as an elite spy/secret-keeping force. It has some wonderfully clever and exciting moments. My biggest complaint is that there are several passages from the “Bailey Brothers” books inserted into the narrative. Unfortunately, most of these interruptions are just that without adding much to Steve’s story.
The conclusion is well-plotted and ultimately satisfying. In general the story holds a lot of promise but this installment of the series (in my opinion) never realizes its full potential. While there are definitely enjoyable moments I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this particular read. ...more