A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson (9781776571086)
This is the third and last book in the Detective Gordon mystery series. In this book, Gordon has retired and Buffy is now the only detective in the police station. Buffy starts hearing strange noises in the middle of the night. She’d love to have Gordon back to help solve the mystery of the scrabbling noises in the night. Meanwhile readers discover that Gordon is getting restless in retirement and that at night he heads to the police station to check on Buffy, making the noises that are scaring her. When a new case arrives, the two police officers are soon working together again to figure out what has happened to two little kindergarten animals who have disappeared. Yet Gordon can’t quite tell Buffy that it was him scaring her at night.
This Swedish early chapter book series has been a joy to read and share from the very first. While it is sad to see the series end, it goes out on a high note that finishes the series off with a solid win. Once again Gordon and Buffy are back, their dynamic maturing and growing as they work more together. The mystery here is serious and compelling as the detectives work to piece together where two young animals have gone and whether they are in danger. Readers get to see that the children are playing and safe, but the detectives don’t know that. It’s a smart way to make the mystery appropriate for young children. As with the entire series there is a focus on fairness, kindness and honesty throughout the book.
Spee’s illustrations add to the appeal of the series. The full color images make the book more approachable for children moving into chapter books. They also depict the forest world that the characters live in with lovely details like toadstools, flowers, and insects in the air. The autumnal feel of the book works well as a series closer as well, with sunset coloring throughout.
A wonderful ending to a top notch series, make sure to start from the beginning! And maybe have some cake on hand to munch along. 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.
Superworm by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The creators of The Gruffalo return with a silly new book that features one incredible worm. Superworm is super-long and super-strong. So when baby toad hops into the road, Superworm becomes a superworm lasso. The bees are bored and moping? It’s Superworm to the rescue with a game of jump rope. When Beetle falls into the well, Superworm turns into a fishing line to get her out. Everything seems to be going so well for Superworm, until a villain enters the story. Wizard Lizard sends his servant crow to capture Superworm and then uses magic to force Superworm to dig for treasure underground. But the others saw Superworm carried off and now it is up to them to be the heroes and save Superworm!
Donaldson writes in rhymes in such a playful and engaging way. The result is a book that reads aloud beautifully and begs to be shared with children. With the examples of the rescues that Superworm performed coming first, I was happily surprised when a villain was introduced and at the turn of events towards the end of the story. It makes for a very dynamic picture book that is sure to be a hit at story time.
Scheffler’s illustrations hit just the right tone. They are bright colored and he takes the rescues and the action to the perfect funny extremes. He also capitalizes on the kid-appeal of bugs, worms and toads.
Add this to your spring time stories, it is sure to be a delight with young readers and listeners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
Vernon, the toad, was out finding interesting things when he met Bird. Bird wasn’t much for talking, not responding to anything that Vernon said, not even when he introduced Bird to his friends, Skunk and Porcupine. Despite his silence (and his stiffness and button eyes) Vernon proceeded to show Bird around the river and forest. But when Bird didn’t react even to watching clouds together, Vernon started to worry that Bird was depressed. So Vernon and Bird set out to help Bird find his home. They looked at all sorts of homes, but none of them were right for Bird. Then they came to a small blue house where they decided to stop for the night. In the house was another small house, a cuckoo clock, up on the wall. And that was where Bird and Vernon spent the night. Until in the morning, Bird finally found his voice.
Stead writes and illustrates with a wonderful charm. His writing is so solid that it is a joy to read aloud. The story is carefully crafted and then playfully told, making for a book that is a pleasure to share. Vernon is a character that children will relate easily and happily to. Bird will immediately be recognized for the toy he is, but the story is less about that mistake by Vernon and more about the journey to find where Bird belongs.
The illustrations have a wonderful freedom to them, filled with swirls of color, that fill the air and cover the walls. Stead draws the main characters with detailed fine lines, but their world is a more childlike, looser scrawl that reveals trees, flowers and dirt. The way the detail plays against the less structured backgrounds adds to the cheer of the title.
Finding ones home, friendship and a grand quest fill this picture book to the brim and combine wonderfully with the charm of the illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat
It all started when a smart girl builds a giant robot as a science project. When it goes on a rampage, she realizes all of the features that she should have included and ones that it definitely should not have, like the laser eye. She also realizes that it is up to her to stop it. She tries to communicate with it, but when that and hitting it fail, she comes up with another solution. She builds a gigantic toad programmed to destroy the robot. And it works! Now just to solve the problem of what can stop a giant toad…
Riotously funny, this book is a brilliant tribute to the monster flicks of the 1950s. Barnett’s dry, understated text heightens the drama and action of the story. Santat’s illustrations pay homage to vintage comics in the colors and stylings, but remain firmly modern too. The illustrations are worth lingering over, especially the many and varied signs shown throughout the city, some in Chinese letters, strengthening that tie to monster movies.
This is a picture book worth sharing with a wide range of ages, even young teens who may have seen some of the type of movies this book references. Happily cheesy, wonderfully funny, this book is extraordinary.
Reviewed from library copy.