________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 29 . . . . April 7, 2017


It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

Wendy McLeod MacKnight.
New York, NY: Sky Pony Press (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2017.
344 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $12.99 (pbk.), $23.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-51072-280-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-51070-621-7 (hc.).

Grades 2-7 / Ages 7-12.

Review by Lacey Hall.

** /4



"This is a lot of money," I said. "Who leaves a paper bag filled with cash in a baseball dugout? Let's look through the bills, check if there's a note inside."….

I stood up to go, but Ralph clutched my arm. "Wait – are we thieves if we take it with us?"

I thought of all the mystery books I'd read and shook my head. "I don't think so, unless we keep the money, which we won't do, right?"

Ralph looked horrified. "Of course we won't!"

"Let's take the money and find a way to return it to its rightful owner. If we leave it here someone else will find it and they might keep it. We owe it to the owner to take care of it."

I imagined myself handing the money to some faceless person, them clasping me in their arms and crying tears of joy for returning the family fortune. I heard the newspaper reporter saying, "How were you so smart to figure out who'd lost the money?" I'd reply, "It was easy." We'd be heroes.

Tracy Munroe is a spunky girl with her own sense of style and desire for adventure. Hoping to find a fun project for herself and her best friend, Ralph, to occupy them over the summer, they set out one day only to stumble across a paper bag filled with money. Convincing Ralph that they should try to solve the mystery of whom the money belongs to, they hide the bag in their secret hideout. Along with her annoying tag along brother, Lester, AKA Pig Face, Tracy and Ralph start their detective work, interviewing the town's inhabitants, including the new boy next door, Zach.

      Soon, things begin to unravel for Tracy as the mystery becomes more and more complicated. With the threat of losing her best friend, hurting her little brother and embarrassing herself in front of her arch nemesis, Tracy must work to solve the mystery in order to fix all her mistakes.

      MacKnight's novel is an easy read with very dynamic characters. Tracy is a young girl whose individualism and independence shine in this story. I really appreciated that she was the lead and made her own decisions throughout the course of the story – even if the decisions got her into trouble. Even with the conflicts that arise, Tracy picks herself up and is able to solve her problems all on her own (although there may have been a few moments she should have asked for an adult's help). Ralph and Lester are both masterfully created with their own quirks – Ralph is very much into cooking and the Food Network while Lester is an allergy riddled, prepared for anything, smarty pants boy who manages to eventually show his worth to his older sister.

      In terms of plot and pacing, I did feel the story fell slightly short. The whodunit aspect was a bit muddled with too many plot points and a lot of backtracking causing the paper bag mystery to drag on too long. The reason the story is kept alive for so long is only due to Ralph's and Tracy's attempts at being mysterious and vague in their interrogation, as well as the secrets they keep from each other. However there are aspects I wasn't sure I believed – for example, the character of Hazel McNutt, the lady who lives next door to Tracy, came across as a young character with similar personality traits to the kids in the novel. She speaks to Tracy in a way I wouldn't imagine adults speaking to a child, especially one that isn't their own. Also, there were many times that characters spoke in a formal way which I felt wasn't true of 11-year-olds.

      Ultimately, MacKnight was able to create strong characters with interesting personality quirks and active decision-making skills, and this carries the story over the plot.


Lacey Hall works in the School of Business Dean's Office at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and is currently working on her Master's Degree in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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