________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission.
(Flint Future Detective Series).

Christopher Paul Curtis.
New York, NY: Yearling/Random House Children’s Books (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2007.
230 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-0-440-22922-3.

Subject Headings:
Gnomes-Juvenile fiction.
Dogs-Juvenile fiction.
African Americans-Juvenile fiction.
Mystery and detective stories.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Catherine Howett.

*** /4


The moose had missed! It must've been bluffing, it must've just run off into the woods! The toy teddy was all right! The only thing that looked different was that now the bear looked like he was wearing some kind of great big hat!

Then the teddy bear let out four of the most disgusting belches Russell had ever heard! And to make matters worse, after each of the four belches the teddy bear spit out something that was three feet across and shaped like a giant hockey puck!

Russell looked to Mr. Bayliss for an explanation.

"Moose hooves. The filthy thing ate the moose whole. Then made a hat out of his antlers."

"You mean that's the..."

"Russell Woods, meet the dreaded Ursa Theodora-Suara!"

The monster stood on his rear legs again. His adorable little button nose sniffed the air. He'd caught the smell of the two hunters, but he couldn't pinpoint where the scent was coming from.


Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission is the second book in the “Flint Future Detective” series by award-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis. This absurdist/comedic detective series is a departure from Curtis's strong, family-centred novels. These stories follow the adventures of Steven, Russell and Richelle, the 'Flint Future Detectives' who are based in Flint, Michigan. Steven was the primary protagonist in the first book which describes the mystery of the 'quadrillion dollar bill' that his neighbour Mr. Chickee had given him. In this second adventure, Russell has the main role. The three detectives are drawn into an alternate world where they are reunited with Mr. Chickee and find that their search for Russell's tiny dog, Rodney Rodent, is part of a larger quest.

      The first book in the series, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, had a definite trajectory and a minimal story line, and, for the most part, it was well-paced. I would suggest that the books be read in order as this second book does not stand on its own.

      Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission suffers somewhat from a hectic pace and from having too many clever ideas imposed on too few chapters. However, once we get to Chapter 15 (Russell's adventure), the narrative flow is strong, and the concept of a land of characters from unfinished fiction is amusingly presented. Curtis has packed the book with a multitude of puns, rapid-fire word-play, and Captain Underpants style musings on dental hygiene. Vocabulary building is a strong theme throughout. These books are presented in numerous reviews as fun read-alouds.

Recommended with reservations.

Catherine Howett, a health sciences librarian and advocate for school libraries, lives in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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