Friday, September 6, 2013

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook
by Mary Amato
Holiday House, 2010
2014 Bluestem Nominee
Format:  Chapter Book
Audience:  Grades 3 to 5
ISBN: 9780823422715
Publication Date:  September 1, 2010

Early one morning, a thief sneaks into Ms. Hershel's classroom, takes a goldfish and leaves a note.  Now it is up to Edgar and his classmates to solve this mystery wrapped up in a poem.  Edgar wants to be the one to find the thief, but perfect Patrick with his CSI-like father seems to be one step ahead of him.  Meanwhile, the students are learning all about poetry, and dissecting the poetic clues left by the thief in Mr. Crews classroom where they learn that poetry is a gift, or maybe a mystery.  The stolen items all add up to new friends for Edgar and a new appreciation for poetry in all its forms.

So far, I feel I have been very positive and enthusiastic about the Bluestem List.  That is about to change.  I found this book to be a little message heavy.  What could have been a fun school story about missing items turned into a thesis on the merits of poetry.  The plot was overburdened, in my opinion, with lost friendships, dying pets, overachieving siblings, and even teacher romance.  

Edgar was not my favorite character.  I get the feeling that he was an outsider of sorts in his classroom, but that was never fully developed.  He read rather immature and whiny as well.  The surrounding characters were a little better, with class clowns and know-it-alls, but the teachers were ridiculously drawn.  Mr. Crews enthusiasm for poetry was obviously written by an adult with a message to push, and the others were flat.  

I felt like this is a fine example of bait and switch.  The cover would lead you to believe that you are getting a children's mystery, the first chapter would lead you to believe that you are getting school mystery, but what you are really getting is a love letter to poets everywhere.  And that's fine, but that's not the book I signed up to read.

You can see that I'm feeling very judgy about this book.  I didn't like it, but it was short, for me at least, and quick, again for me.  I'm not sure how I would sell it to a students, except to say that "here, this is the only Bluestem in stock-take it or leave it".  

I find myself loving the first half of award lists and dreading the back half.  I think I will be back next week to work out why.

My feelings about Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook (and unnecessarily long title) are not great, but I'm also not a young reader.  Still, I think that this book is too much for most readers and will finish near the back of the pack.  For a better school story that targets the same readers, see The World According to Humphrey.  It's everything this book isn't, plus it has a hamster.  I'm sold!

Happy Reading

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