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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Review: Mariella Mystery Investigates the Ghostly Guinea Pig by Kate Pankhurst

Brilliant new mystery series for young readers

This is a gorgeously presented story, quirkily illustrated by the author, which makes it an engaging package for 'emerging readers' as the text is broken up and isn't intimidating. At the same time, it would easily sustain the interest of more confident readers looking for something fun. I know my avid reader 9 year old will love this series! I genuinely enjoyed reading it and it would easily serve as a shared read for less confident readers (and the story could probably be enjoyed by 6 yr olds as a read-aloud).

Mariella Mystery is a fabulous creation and her voice shines through the novel beautifully. She's what you might call a 'take charge' kind of girl (we won't say bossy...) and tells her story in a very no nonsense way. The book is presented as her "young super sleuth's journal", with occasional highly entertaining extracts from "The Young Super Sleuth's Handbook", and 'case reports' from her investigations [teacher-mode aside: I could imagine using this book with an upper primary group to talk about fiction and non-fiction and simply to enjoy the story!]. Mariella is clearly the leader of her little gang, the Mystery Girls, although her friends Poppy and Violet are not mere passive sidekicks. Little girls will love this book and there is plenty of good role model stuff here; it's definitely a weak-female-character-free zone!

The plot is ever so slightly mad in the best possible way. The ghostly guinea pigs are never genuinely portrayed as threatening or scary, and the conclusion leaves the reader with nothing to be afraid of, in the best Scooby Doo tradition.

Overall, this is a great package for the target age range, and I would absolutely recommend it. I'll be reviewing the second in the series, Mariella Mystery Investigates a Cupcake Conundrum, soon.

From the publisher's website:

Meet Mariella Mystery - no mystery too mysterious, no problem too perplexing. The first title in a debut series perfect for 7+ girls and fans of Clarice Bean.

Mariella Mystery (That's me!) - totally amazing girl detective, aged 9 and a bit. Able to solve the most mysterious mysteries and perplexing problems, even before breakfast.

When their teacher Miss Crumble spots the ghost of her pet guinea pig, Mr Darcy, in her back garden, she doesn't know what to think. But Mariella knows it's up to her and her fellow Mystery Girls to get to the bottom of The Case of the Ghostly Guinea Pig.

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Published 4 April by Orion Children's Books
Find more info on the author's website
My grateful thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy

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