Cam Jansen Mysteries

cam jansen cover

Cam Jansen & the Mystery of the Television Dog

By David A. Adler, Illustrated by Susanna Natti


Published by: First published in 1981 by Viking Penguin, Inc. Reissued by Puffin Books (July 22, 2004)

Available in: paperback, library binding, audible, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were 34 books in the Cam Jansen Mysteries series as well as an early readers series under Young Cam Jansen.



Cam Jansen & the Mystery of the Television Dog is one of the many, many Cam Jansen books, both for the early reader and the newly independent chapter book reader. Cam is a likable and quirky protagonist who is smart, kind of nerdy and has a keen eye for detail. These are very cool attributes to give to a main character, particularly a girl. In reviewing lots of chapter books, I see far too many current series with fluff and drama as the main personality and plot points. Seriousness has a home with Cam, and it’s a good fit.

The book has a very nostalgic look and feel. Illustrations hark back to a simpler time with plain black and white, crosshatch detail. The kids portrayed have a ‘70s-era look with rolled up shorts, basic T-shirts, generic round eyes and short hair. Likewise, the sentence structure is very clipped and easy, as in this short segment. “Just then a long dark blue car drove up. It stopped right in front of the bookstore. The driver got out…” Kids can swallow this stuff with easy confidence.

What is unique is Cam’s photographic memory. It’s a fun device that turns a simple story into a unique tale. The mystery part is also fun because it’s easy to spot a doggie switcheroo by a bad guy. Cam’s adventure is quick reading with just enough spunk to make it interesting. And if kids are interested, they’ll read more–which is is the point, yes?

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

Joe Sherlock Mysteries



By Dave Keane


Published by: HarperCollins (January 30, 2007)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were six books in the Joe Sherlock series.



Elementary, my dear Watson.

Joe Sherlock, Kid Detective, Case #000004: The Headless Mummy is part of a winning mystery formula based on a love of legendary super sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. With fun additions like Baskerville Elementary and Baker Street, the inside jokes help carry the story to a very satisfactory ending.

Part of the reason author/illustrator Keane’s young Joe is such an endearing protagonist is his imperfect nature. Although able to use good common sense to solve the puzzle at the core of the book, Joe also has challenges that concern him. Like his difficulty in reading. And his difficulty in understanding big words or expressions. Even though he solves the mystery, Joe is not a know-it-all. Most sweet.

The book is also filled with truly quirky characters and plot points worthy of a good laugh out loud. There’s his sister Doreen, who’s really a disposable glove filled with water… which he sits on and breaks, fearing he’s wet his pants. His (real) sister, Hailey, is a comic delight, and things like a pancake that look like a TV host keep the humor rolling from page to page.

The entire book feels like a young boy’s journal: the typeface is sort of jolly, the illustrations are goofy and original, and the plot moves appropriately sideways just as it moves forward. At times the tone and point of view feel almost adult in tone, but this is not a criticism. It feels distinct and different from other chapter books, which fit the young Joe Sherlock like a good herringbone jacket.

It’s no mystery: Joe Sherlock is one cool chapter book series.

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