________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery.

Alexander McCall Smith. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.
Toronto, ON: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2007.
80 pp., cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 978-06769774-5.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Sandi Harrison.

* /4

Reviewed from Advance Uncorrected Proof.


Before too long Professor Sardine and his evil assistant would be safely locked up in jail. Or so the children thought. They had not counted on the fact that they were dealing with one of the most cunning and determined villains in the world, and he still had one or two tricks up his sleeve. In fact, although the children did not realize it, they were just about to find themselves faced with the greatest danger they had ever encountered in their lives.


Max and Maddy are the children of two of the world’s most famous private detectives, Mr. and Mrs. Twist. The Twist adults, who are also the authors of popular how-to private detective books, are now retired and run an ice cream shop that serves up 37 flavors. When the Huffendorfs from Switzerland call for Max and Maddy to help them solve some bank robberies, Max and Maddy are happy to help—especially if it means they get the reward prize of chocolate. They go to Switzerland, and find themselves facing Professor Sardine.

     The first book of the new series by Alexander McCall Smith (best-selling author of the adult mysteries “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”), The Chocolate Money Mystery is a slower-paced, passive plot-and-narrative heavy story. Max and Maddy are virtually indistinguishable as individual protagonists, and the ambiguity of their lack of distinction as individuals is made more indecipherable by their matching first initial. Although they have never worked a case before, they know precisely how to outsmart Professor Sardine (a cookie-cutter villain)—probably because of the books their former private detective parents have written. The reward for Max and Maddy’s services is chocolate or money—the children decide they want chocolate money. A delectable reward, indeed, though the title is somewhat misleading, suggesting the mystery is about the chocolate money and not, in fact, bank robberies.

     Although this story lacks dynamic characters, as a classroom read-aloud purely for entertainment The Chocolate Money Mystery would most likely be somewhat entertaining. Overall, however, it seems as though McCall Smith’s understanding of children’s writing is that it is simply a simplified version of adult writing—and not something to be taken seriously.

Not recommended.

Sandi Harrison recently completed her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at UBC and will begin her Bachelor of Education this fall.


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