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Mystery lovers:  take heed. There's a series of mysteries that older kids
will thoroughly enjoy.  And, for the younger detective, there is an
outstanding picture book that will intrigue and enlighten with the turn of
every page.
First of all, Bruce Hale has some of the funniest mystery books on the
market today.  It is an interesting combination to have humor and mystery
together, but this author hits the mark right on target. He has created
stories that present problems right in the beginning of the book making the
reader highly motivated to read to the end to solve the dilemma. But at the
same time, the circumstances, situations and innuendoes and word play that
surround the detective, and his side-kick, are hilarious which only adds to
the entertainment value of the story.
"Trouble is my Beeswax", is Hale's most recent edition of the Chet Gecko
Mysteries. Chet Gecko is a....you guessed it...a gecko lizard. He is
attending Emerson Hicky Elementary where he suspects a cheating ring in the
works right in his own classroom. In fact, his teacher, an exasperated Mr.
Ratnose, accuses him of cheating. However, his chameleon friend, Shirley
Chameleon, has been labeled the leader of the cheaters and he will not stand
by (or slither by) and let her good reputation be put to the test. His
mockingbird partner, Natalie Attired, helps him as he surveys the class.
Could it be Rocky Rhode, a deceitful derelict horned toad that's
"delinquent"? Or could that magpie "with attitude", Jackdaw Ripper, be the
real ringleader in stealing the answers of others?  As Chet surveys those
most likely to cheat, he goes about his regular school schedule. Of course,
like all kids, his favorite time in school is lunch. And as he sets out to
investigate, he looks forward to eating some delectable cuisine: fungus gnat
sauce, Bar-B-Q Weevil chip, grub-'n'-tater casserole and pond-scum quiche.
There are one-liners and metaphors throughout the story that may be above
your youngster, but doesn't detract from the story. Some include:
"...Cassandra was such a tattletale, she'd even rat on herself" and "...Her
eyelashes fluttered like a kite tail in a Force 5 hurricane" and "...He was
as hard to crack as a concrete coconut."  There are also funny illustrations
sprinkled throughout the story adding to the tongue-in-cheek humor.
Chet Gecko is such a cool lizard that kids ages 8 to 12 will be glad there
are many more books in the series. The names of the books are catchy and
clever. Hale's newest release comes out next month, "Give My Regrets to
Broadway".
 

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"Mystery", written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert, is a picture book that
invites children ages 5 and older to solve the crime.  A young piglet and
her grandpig are visiting the museum during copying day. (Once a week,
visitors are invited to draw and copy the images of their choice from the
pictures hanging on the walls of the museum.) When the youngster discovers
that something's amiss and tells her father, the reader will immediately try
to discover what's wrong at the museum. Upon turning the pages, the reader
will slowly discover what the problem is and try to solve the mystery along
with the young piglet.
The illustrations of the museum, and the layout of piglet's etchings, are so
elaborate and detailed that if the reader misses the solution, the book begs
to be revisited. Even if the reader solves the case, along with the
youngster and her grandpa, there is a great likelihood that they will go
back throughout the book again and again.
This is the kind of a masterful mystery that will actively engage both
parent and child as they try to become detectives in a crime that has been
committed. But to know by whom and how it was perpetrated will have to be
left to reading the book and investigating the illustrations. So good luck
to all of you future sleuths!