CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007
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.
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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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.