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….

Year One Re-Post #4: The Lion Who Stole My Arm

Originally published in March 2014. This is, hands down, my favorite book of the year.

lion cover

THE LION WHO STOLE MY ARM

By Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Annabel Wright

 

Published by: Candlewick (February 25, 2014)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

 

Evocative.

Newly released The Lion Who Stole My Arm is an exquisite journey into the culture and community of a small African village.  It’s also a taut drama of survival and a moving, authentic emotional transformation.

And yet zoologist and children’s writer Nicola Davies keeps this smart and clever tale perfectly tuned to the newly independent reader. The simple sentence structure and mostly easy language is scaled just right. When new vocabulary or science terms are introduced, they are either defined at the end of a chapter or are made clear through usage. Given the bold, photography-based cover and broad marketing, it seems the publisher is steering clear of marking this a chapter book, even while it easily fits the criteria. This is not a surprise; the book could easily be considered a middle grade crossover. I’ve even recommended this book to adults—it’s that good.

The science aspect is no small matter that adds a third dimension. The issues of animal habitat/behavior and human encroachment/survival are given fair, equal treatment. Both kids and adults will find the research and use of tracking tools intriguing and cool. The thoughtful explanation of the food chain fits naturally into the story.

I’d say boys in particular will like this book because the protagonist is a young boy, and of course there is the infamous lion. And yet girls will eat this up as well… arms and all.

Annabel Wright’s black and white watercolors add to the exotic authenticity with a quirky, old-school feel. Spare and lovely, they invite the reader to imagine what is not shown: the wide African sky above, and the thick bush just beyond the picture. Her unique perspective also adds a sense of personality, space and importance.

This book is a gift to young readers entering the world of literacy. It is human and wild, exotic and accessible, and is imbued with an emotional heft that lands with a soft touch. The Lion Who Stole My Arm is a masterwork of what contemporary chapter books can achieve. Bravo, Ms. Davies. Bravo.

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

Captivating Lion

lion cover

THE LION WHO STOLE MY ARM

By Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Annabel Wright

 

Published by: Candlewick (February 25, 2014)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

 

Evocative.

Newly released The Lion Who Stole My Arm is an exquisite journey into the culture and community of a small African village.  It’s also a taut drama of survival and a moving, authentic emotional transformation.

And yet zoologist and children’s writer Nicola Davies keeps this smart and clever tale perfectly tuned to the newly independent reader. The simple sentence structure and mostly easy language is scaled just right. When new vocabulary or science terms are introduced, they are either defined at the end of a chapter or are made clear through usage. Given the bold, photography-based cover and broad marketing, it seems the publisher is steering clear of marking this a chapter book, even while it easily fits the criteria. This is not a surprise; the book could easily be considered a middle grade crossover. I’ve even recommended this book to adults—it’s that good.

The science aspect is no small matter that adds a third dimension. The issues of animal habitat/behavior and human encroachment/survival are given fair, equal treatment. Both kids and adults will find the research and use of tracking tools intriguing and cool. The thoughtful explanation of the food chain fits naturally into the story.

I’d say boys in particular will like this book because the protagonist is a young boy, and of course there is the infamous lion. And yet girls will eat this up as well… arms and all.

Annabel Wright’s black and white watercolors add to the exotic authenticity with a quirky, old-school feel. Spare and lovely, they invite the reader to imagine what is not shown: the wide African sky above, and the thick bush just beyond the picture. Her unique perspective also adds a sense of personality, space and importance.

This book is a gift to young readers entering the world of literacy. It is human and wild, exotic and accessible, and is imbued with an emotional heft that lands with a soft touch. The Lion Who Stole My Arm is a masterwork of what contemporary chapter books can achieve. Bravo, Ms. Davies. Bravo.

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