ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN CRACKS THE CASE

Having kept Idaville crime free “for more than a year”—more like 44 years, to be precise—the still-ten-year-old Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown takes on ten more scams, misdemeanors and outright felonies. Whether dealing with the theft of various precious items (including an autographed baseball from a case that is, literally, cracked) or the efforts of high-school dropout Wilford Wiggins and ne’er-do-well bully Bugs Meany to cheat local children out of their hard-earned savings, the precocious preteen unfailingly delivers the revealing question or significant fact that forces a confession. Only readers well enough informed to know how the author of Alice in Wonderland spelled his pseudonym, or attentive enough to spot the tiny slip in a suspect’s story, will keep up—all others can look to the answers in the back. That’s a formula that still works after more than a generation. (art not seen) (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-525-47924-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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THE HIGH-RISE PRIVATE EYES

THE CASE OF THE PUZZLING POSSUM

Bunny Brown and Jack Jones, ace detectives, join forces again to solve their third easy-reader mystery in this snappy new series from Newbery Medalist Rylant, author of the beloved Henry and Mudge books. Bunny the bunny is the practical brains of the detective duo, and Jack the raccoon is her humorous sidekick, who is even funnier in this book than in the previous volumes, The Case of the Missing Monkey (not reviewed) and The Case of the Climbing Cat (2000). In this case, Bunny and Jack solve the chronic disappearance (and reappearance) of a trombone from a neighborhood music store. The puzzling possum of the title, Freddy, has been repeatedly "borrowing" the trombone so he can play at hayride entertainments with Gus's Big Brass Boys. Bunny and Jack nab him red-handed, and Bunny offers the practical solution of paying for the trombone by giving lessons at the music store. The combination easy-reader, easy-mystery follows the established format of a few clues, a mild neighborhood mystery, and lots of clever puns and jokes that will delight the intended audience. The humor is exactly on track for the early elementary grades, including a squashed marshmallow on Jack's seat and a quick rush to the bathroom following some dizzying explanations by the music-store owner (just the sort of jokes first graders adore). Karas's engaging illustrations in acrylic, gouache, and pencil help create unique personalities for Bunny and Jack. It's no mystery why this series is successful, and this endearing duo seems destined to crack many more cases of minor mischief in their urban neighborhood. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16308-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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The science is interesting; the flat story is less so.

THE STEM NIGHT DISASTER

From the Kate the Chemist series

Kate might get to impress her scientist hero—if she can stop her saboteur.

Fifth grader Kate, a White girl in a diverse school, loves chemistry. She loves science class, science projects, and watching her favorite pop scientist, Dr. Caroline, on YouTube. So she’s overwhelmed when she learns that her school’s received a grant to have a STEM night, and the judge they’re flying in to evaluate the fifth grade science projects is Kate’s beloved Dr. Caroline. Each of her friends knows immediately what science project they’ll do. Elijah, a Black boy who loves drumming, explores sound quality. Birdie, a South Asian girl who loves art, experiments with ink chromatography. But Kate, who, in her own words, is “obsessed” with science, has no idea what to do. After a hubris-fueled false start, Kate gets a clever (and YouTube-ready) idea, but someone in the school is sabotaging her. Parts of her experiment keep being destroyed, and someone writes mean things on her science fair poster. Kate’s use of science to solve the mystery works well within the plot; one sequence explains how to dust for fingerprints with cocoa powder. Uninteresting science clip art doesn’t add much artistic spice, but the included fruit-battery experiment (which requires equipment which might be present in the home) is a good choice. The series protagonist’s obsession with author avatar Dr. Caroline is a throughline that’s run its course.

The science is interesting; the flat story is less so. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11661-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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