Wednesday 28 August 2013

Mariella Mystery Investigates:The Ghostly Guinea Pig by Kate Pankhurst

MARIELLA MYSTERY: (That's me!) Totally amazing girl detective, aged nine and a bit. Able to solve the most mysterious mysteries and perplexing problems, even before breakfast.
Published by Orion Children's Books
Book Summary
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.
Review by Liss Norton
When I first read this book I didn't like it much. The story is slow to get going, with far too much background information about how to be a detective and about Mariella's family. I felt it would have been better to introduce the mystery much sooner, rather than telling the reader things they don't really need to know, such as the fact that Mariella's mum reads detective stories or how to set up a detective headquarters. This vague sense of dissatisfaction stayed with me for much of the book – even though the relationship between Mariella and her annoying little brother Arthur made me laugh at times – and it increased massively when I came to the information pages that are embedded in the story. These include, amongst others, 'How to Draw an Artist's Impression' and 'Guinea Pig Facts'. They break up the flow of the story and slow the pace. 
However, after a gap of a couple of weeks, I re-read the book and although I still found the long introduction and the information pages trying, I thought the rest of it was much more enjoyable. I particularly liked the rather understated humour as the characters came to life and now I knew the ending I spotted a few clues buried in the text that I'd overlooked the first time around. Does this mean that they are too well-hidden for young readers to pick up on? Possibly, but I think someone reading the whole series would soon become adept at spotting them. 
The book will appeal to girls aged seven to nine. It is full of line drawings and is divided into diary entries, some of them so long that they're no different to the narratives of non-diary stories, and those pages of information. I felt that I was being lectured when I came to these; my overwhelming urge was to skip them and I had to force myself to plough through them as this wouldn't be an honest review if I hadn't read from cover to cover. The many drawings might fool parents into thinking this book is suitable for children who aren't yet fully fluent at reading but the vocabulary is quite sophisticated at times so I don't think this is the case.
The book's plot and characters are zany enough to suit the target age range but I definitely wouldn't put it in my top-twenty-best-books-of-the-year list. However, if those information pages were left out, I think it might just make the top forty.

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