Friday, May 4, 2012

Saxby Smart in The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Files

Saxby Smart in The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Files (Saxby Smart #1)
Simon Cheshire, illustrated by R.W. Alley
Roaring Brook Press, 2009
$14.95, Hardcover
February 26th, 2012

Genre: Mystery
Age: 8+
Description: Meet Saxby Smart, Private Detective. He is named after a lot of famous detectives or writers of detective stories (full name—Saxby Doyle Christie Chandler Ellin Allan Smart) because his dad is obsessed with detective stories and Saxby has followed in his footsteps, reading his dad’s entire collection. In this first book, readers read about three of Saxby’s first cases. In the “Curse of the Ancient Mask” a classmate asks Saxby to help her dad. Ever since he bought a cursed Japanese mask his great tech ideas have been stolen by a competing company. His boss thinks he’s secretly giving information to the other company. Can Saxby figure out the case before the man looses his job? In “The Marks of the Purple Homework,” Saxby’s friend Jeremy always wins a yearly school essay contest. When his homework is attacked with purple goo and a note about a Purple Avenger it appears as if someone is out to sabotage this year’s entries. Saxby is willing to use his own essay as bait to lure the Purple Avenger out . . . too bad Saxby didn’t make an extra copy of his homework first. In “The Clasp of Doom,” Heather is accused by a snooty relative of stealing her coat clasp. Heather didn’t do it and asks Saxby for his help in finding it before Mrs. Pither goes to the police.
Opinion: I love Saxby Smart! This book is about 160 pages with illustrations throughout and is a great introduction to the style of classic mystery stories, such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. The great thing is that while the overarching plot connects the whole novel is broken up into the three mini cases so readers aren’t overwhelmed with a long mystery. Another great thing is that Saxby actually encourages the readers’ to participate. The author makes sure that all the clues Saxby needs to solve a case are presented in the story so readers get a chance to solve the mystery too. Saxby kind of addresses the reader as his assistant (his Watson if you may). There are little moments throughout each story when Saxby is reviewing some facts and he’ll pause and say something like “I’ve got it! But how do I know this?” and an illustration of question marks will address the reader and ask if they’ve figured it out too so it gives readers a place to pause, think about what’s happened, propose a hypothesis, and then continue reading to see if they figured it out too.

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