Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin (9781338180619)
The amazing Selznick has taken on easy readers with this new book written with Serlin. Baby Monkey isn’t just a baby and a monkey, he also has a job (and an amazing office) as a private eye. He is asked to solve several crimes in the course of the book, but first he has to have a snack and put on his pants! Filled with eye-catching details and others that are worth poring over the pages to discover, this is a funny and smart book for new readers to explore on their own or with an adult helping out.
The book has the heft and weight of a full chapter book, but upon opening it the letters are large, the language repetitive and it’s just right for children learning to read. It is the illustrations by Selznick that make this book so special. Using his signature style, he fills the pages with details that are entrancing. At the same time, there is a lovely repetitive nature to the story that plays out in the simpler images as well with the snacks, writing notes, and putting on pants. This adds to the humor of the book as these elements play out again and again.
A winning new easy reader that pushes the boundaries of the format, this book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
(Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.)
A Complicated Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee
This is the second book in the Detective Gordon series and offers a new mystery for the toad police chief and his young mouse assistant to solve. The detective pair live together at the police station after converting the jail into bedrooms. Gordon is getting pudgier and finding it harder to run, partly because he loves his cakes and his naps. Buffy is just as energetic as ever, but has some of her own personal fears to overcome, like admitting that she can’t read. The two detectives discover that someone in the forest is being mean to others, something that is clearly against the rules set forth in the law. But things are not as clear as they may seem as the two detectives discover.
Nilsson has just the right amount of drama in this second installment of the series. The lovely friendship between the aging toad and the young mouse is delightfully presented with plenty of appreciation for what each of them bring to the partnership, and I don’t just mean that Gordon can swim and Buffy can climb trees. In this mystery, the two of them also convey their own doubts and fears, something that is done with enough subtlety that readers may not realize until the end of the book that that is the focus of this mystery.
The art is warm and playful. The two characters are wonderfully distinct from one another as Gordon mopes on the page about how pudgy he is while Buffy dances and dreams of wearing costumes. There is a coziness in the illustrations as well, from the cakes and their tins to the soft furniture.
Another lovely outing for the two detectives, this series is one to watch for children just starting to read chapter books. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee (InfoSoup)
When a squirrel discovers that some of his nuts are missing one winter night, he heads straight to the police station where Detective Gordon, Chief of Police, can help him. But when he gets there, no one seems to be around until he finds the great detective fast asleep on his paperwork with cake crumbs all around. Once awoken though, Detective Gordon heads out to help solve the crime. But it’s a very cold night and Detective Gordon can’t climb to the hole in the tree to see the crime scene. When he stands watch, he manages to freeze solid. That’s when a little mouse steals one nut from the tree and ends up helping Gordon back to his warm police station. The little mouse is soon named Buffy and settles into the police station as an assistant to Gordon. She can scramble up trees and seems to have a knack for crime solving too. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all accompanied with lots of warmth, tea and cakes. But who is stealing the nuts? Will they strike again? And how can one very young mouse and one old toad figure it all out?
Translated from the original Swedish, this book is a toasty little joy. It has gorgeous elements to it, filled with small touches that bring it entirely to life. From the various cakes for each time of day and the delight at discovering each new flavor to the pleasure both Buffy and Gordon get from stamping each document when its completed, this book is perfect for quiet and cozy crime fighters and detectives. The mystery is just right for small children and the cozy nature of the story makes this an idea bedtime read. The descriptions are vivid, enhancing the strong feeling of a woodsy community as a whole.
Spee’s illustrations add to the snug feeling of the story. She creates fires that glow with a halo of warmth, cakes that line up with plenty for everyone, and beds that are stacked with eiderdown. It is all very domestic and wonderful and also has a little humor mixed in, just like the story itself. The full-color illustrations make this a perfect book to move young readers and listeners to longer books.
A pleasure of a book, this cozy mystery for children is clearly European in origin which adds to the fun. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Hermelin: The Detective Mouse by Mini Grey
Released August 5, 2014.
Hermelin is a mouse who lives in the attic of Number 33 Offley Street. His attic is filled with books and boxes and a typewriter that Hermelin uses to write with. When Hermelin notices that the Offley Street Notices board is filled with people missing things, he knows just what he has to do. So he starts working as a mouse detective and solving the mysteries of Offley Street. He does this by noticing things and then leaving typed notes for the people to help them find their missing items. Then when tragedy almost strikes the youngest person on Offley Street, Hermelin is the one to save the day! Soon everyone wants to know exactly who this Hermelin person is, so they invite him to a thank you party in his honor. He just isn’t quite what they were expecting…
A new Mini Grey book is always a treat and this one is perfectly lovely. Hermelin is a winning character with plenty of pluck as he goes about solving mysteries. Happily, the mysteries are just as small as Hermelin himself, making the book all the more jaunty and fun. Grey spends some time showing Hermelin’s attic and how he lives. The small details here add a rich warmth to the book and it is also the details that create such a vibrant world on Offley Street with the humans as well.
Done in her signature style, the illustrations are filled with details. One can read the cereal box, the milk carton, and the titles on the books as well as giggling at the flavors of cat food on the shelf. Hermelin himself is a lovely white mouse with inquisitive eyes and a face that shows emotions clearly. The entire book is a pleasure to immerse yourself into and simply enjoy.
Clever and filled with adventure, the vast appeal of this detective story is no mystery at all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.