By Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Published by: Balzer + Bray; Reprint edition (May 7, 2013)
Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were two books in the J.J. Tully Mystery series.
The Legend of Diamond Lil: A J.J. Tully Mystery is an old-time mystery ala Philip Marlowe. It’s easy to visualize our hero in a trench coat and fedora, his steps echoing down a foggy alley deep in the night. Except our hero is a dog with floppy ears, a collar and trouble with possums.
Wise, a little sour and with shades of Rodney Dangerfield humor, J.J. Tully is funny right from the start: “A week ago, I woke up in the quiet country yard that smelled like fresh air and dog pee.” He’s an unusual protagonist for a children’s chapter book, which is perhaps why I love it so much. Filled with back (doggie) door information, sidekicks Dirt and Sugar, and a mystery that only a dog could sniff out, this chapter book excels at originality, comic turns of phrase and intrigue.
Because of the more sophisticated humor and a sometimes more difficult vocabulary, this is an excellent choice for chapter book readers who are on the verge of moving to middle grade novels. This is no babyish saga, but a fully developed, tail-wagging story with complex plot, characters that breathe with life and a satisfactory ending.
This same writer/illustrator duo also brought us the hilarious Chicken Squad series, and its nice to have the familiar looks to chickens, dogs and things that go bump in the night. A winning combination to be sure.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….