Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 by N. Griffen, illustrated by Kate Hindley

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  Room 11 is having a bad day.  Not only do they have Mr. Carper, a.k.a. the worst substitute in the world, but someone is going around gluing things to people, and the whole class gets in trouble for it.  Then the worst happens…Patches, the new hamster, disappears!  Smashie didn’t really want to get a hamster (she thinks they have creepy feet), so she’s a prime suspect.  She and her best friend, Dontel, decide they better do everything they can to solve the mystery.  Smashie dons her Investigation Suit, and Dontel sharpens up his scientific reasoning as they attempt to figure out just what happened to Patches.

Pros:  Candlewick is getting a reputation for its one-of-a-kind children’s books, and this one fits the bill.  Sure, it’s a great mystery, perfect for third, fourth, or fifth graders, but it’s also got a level of humor that adults will enjoy as well.  “There are days when the only thing that gets me through is the thought of a glass of wine and two hours’ research with a copy of GQ,” announces Mr. Carper.  And he’s just one of a whole host of quirky and appealing characters that populate Room 11.

Cons:  Do nine-year-olds need this much quirkiness?  Smashie sometimes came across as too much of an oddball to really ring true.  I wonder if elementary readers will appreciate the kids in this story or just think they are weird.

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