No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for Kids

mission lion cover

The Mystery of the Missing Lion

A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers (3)

(No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (Precious Ramotswe Mysteries))

By Alexander McCall Smith, Illustrated by Iain McIntosh


Published by: Anchor (October 21, 2014)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, audiobook, audio CD, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were three books in The Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers series.



Africa, Africa, Africa.

There are readers of this blog from Africa. But the majority are not, and for us, this series is an utter delight of cultural immersion, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency-style.

Alexander McCall Smith is, of course, the author of the hugely successful detective series for adults. And I am probably the No. 1 fan of No. 1 Ladies. So it was with held breath that I read The Mystery of the Missing Lion. Dare I hope the original concept transcend genres and actually be as good in other formats?

With a smile that almost breaks my cheeks, I am happy to report the answer is Yes. This charming series kneels to the children’s market by placing Precious Romotswe with her dear daddy, Obed, when she was nine years old. She is as genuine, precocious and kind as her fans would hope. Precious lives in a simple world, with easy respect and raw wonder.

In The Mystery of the Missing Lion, along with an intriguing bit of detective work, children will read why young leopards learn not to eat a porcupine, why one should not pull an elephant’s tail, and feel the roar of a ferocious hippo. Fresh? This stuff is palpable adventure, dreams and exotic life.

With all this praise heaped higher than a meerkat, it might surprise to know the real treasure here is the artwork. McIntosh’s woodblock prints are clever, alive, vaguely ethnic in an earthen, deep wine red and black. The illustrations of a hippo’s Harumph! and a guinea fowl’s spotted call are nothing if not brilliant. Luckily, there are illustrations on almost every page.

It is a stretch to put this in the chapter book market. There is not the usual white space found in chapter books, the text is smaller and the sentences simple but full. This is for those children in early elementary who are reading just past grade level or perhaps reluctant readers in the older elementary grades.

Either way, the call of the African delta is one that will trickle through young readers minds. For those of us not lucky enough to feel the imprint of Botswana on our own toes, Smith brings the experience alive as if we were walking down the red bush track with him. Ah, Africa….

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

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