Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath (J Mystery)

Mr and Mrs Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire 

Polly Horvath (Juvenile Mystery)

The summer solstice has arrived and the residents of Hornby Island are preparing for the festival of Luminara.  While Madeline’s parents are busy making luminaries, she is getting ready for her school’s awards ceremony where Prince Charles himself will be handing out the awards (Madeline is getting three!).  All is pretty much as it should be until Madeline returns home that night to find a mysterious note on her door stating that her parents have been taken in for questioning.  It was signed by “The Enemy” and even included a “mwa-haha”, which is NEVER a good sign.  With her decoder uncle in a sudden and rather inconvenient coma, Madeline is alone and truly in over her head.  She seeks help from Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire and although these two don’t seem to know what they’re doing, they DO have rather smart-looking fedoras and that has to count for something.  So, with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny on the case, this mystery is officially afoot!

Although Polly Horvath merely translated this story from Mrs. Bunny’s personal account, she still delivers a funny, quirky, and lighthearted romp that will delight and entertain young readers who enjoy a good mystery.  Filled with fiendish foxes, garlic-bread-eating marmots, exploding chapeaus, and high-speed chases, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire is an action-packed thrill ride where faith is blind, reason is deaf, and hope springs eternal.

Despite its whimsy and charm, Horvath does give readers a few poignant lessons that hopefully won’t get lost amongst all the fur, fluff, and fun.  Through Madeline, we see a girl caught between two worlds: the happy hippies of Hornby and the more mainstream children at her school on Vancouver Island.  Her classmates have already formed an opinion of her based solely on where she lives and nothing Madeline does can alter that prejudice: “[Madeline] didn’t know how to make the other children like her, and she felt she constantly had to defend herself from unspoken accusations about a way of life she hadn’t chosen to begin with.”  Pretty weighty stuff, but this is why Polly Horvath is one of my favorite children’s authors.  She never writes down to her audience and presents real-life problems in a way that young readers can easily relate to and connect with.  She also shows us that family is what you make it for the Bunnys, not all that familiar with humans or children, manage to see and appreciate something in Madeline that her own parents have chosen to either overlook or ignore and end up loving her as their own.  Lastly, she shows us the absolute wonder of simply being noticed and appreciated (see previous comment about Madeline’s parents).  Madeline has the unique gift to understand and communicate with animals.  When she mentions this to Prince Charles, he replies, “I’ve often heard animals speak.  Plants too.  It’s all a matter of noticing, isn’t it?  The richness of our lives depends on what we are willing to notice and what we are willing to believe.”  In this world of clatter and clutter and non-stop input, it’s hard to just stop and notice the beauty that surrounds us every day.  It’s quiet and subtle and often goes unnoticed.  But lucky for us, we have a ten-year-old girl, two clever bunnies (with rather smart-looking fedoras), and the heir apparent to the British throne to remind us that it’s there and it’s well worth the effort.

Rating: 4/5

*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

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The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Mystery)

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler (Adult Fiction Mystery)

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

Philip Marlowe is thirty-eight, single, and makes a living as a private detective charging clients $25 per day plus expenses.  It pays the rent.  Then a case arrives involving a very wealthy General Guy Sternwood.  The general is being blackmailed (again) and he wants Marlowe to handle the matter “personally”.  Over the next five days, Marlowe becomes embroiled in pornography, gambling, missing persons, and murder.  It’s just an average week in the life of Philip Marlowe.

The Big Sleep is a gritty, edgy crime novel where the skirts are tight, the brandy is served cold, and cigarette smoke permeates every square inch of a room.  Chandler’s writing is sharp and crisp and the similes and metaphors fly around faster than bullets: “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” or “Her whole body shivered and her face fell apart like a bride’s pie crust.”  Chandler wrote this book about fifty years before the introduction of “girl power” so readers shouldn’t be surprised at seeing women being objectified, marginalized, abused (they tend to get slapped around a LOT), and vilified.  But it really wouldn’t be the same book if some blonde-haired Trixie kept pulling Marlowe out of tight fixes.  Would it?

Chandler entertains us with a book that’s as humorous as it is dark.  The only downside is his penchant for overly describing everything.  True, we know exactly what a character looks like (down to his sock pattern) or how a room is laid out (as well as the color of the wallpaper), but the momentum of the story is dragged down by the weight of these excessive details.  Still, this is a small price to pay considering Chandler gives us such gems as, “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”  It’s good to be Philip Marlowe.

Reviewer’s Note: The version read was published in 2011 by Thinking Ink Media and should be avoided due to numerous editing errors found throughout the book.

Rating: 4/5

*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

 

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe (J)

Bunnicula

Bunnicula   

Deborah and James Howe (Juvenile Fiction)

Who would have thought that a seemingly innocent rabbit found in a movie theater would turn a happy family upside down…and possibly threaten the world?  Chester, that’s who.  The Monroe’s family cat knew the instant that snuggly bunny entered their home that something was definitely not right.  Harold, the family dog, was clueless and Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their two boys were no help at all.  No.  It was up to him and him alone to expose this furry fraud for who he really was.  Soon, Chester would make his discovery known to all since the clues were all coming together:  the nocturnal sleeping habits, the drained vegetables, the Houdini-like talents of escapism, the FANGS!  Come on!  Why is he the ONLY ONE WHO SEES IT?  Well, cats are far more intelligent.  Thankfully, Chester has a plan, but can he make it work in time to save his family and everyone on the planet?

Bunnicula is a harmless and hilarious way to get your young reader into the Halloween spirit.  FAR more benign and innocuous than The Witches by Roald Dahl (reviewed on October 9), the antics of Chester and Harold are entertaining and lighthearted.  Perhaps the only scary thing about this book is the cover (an adorable rabbit with red eyes and fangs?  Yikes!).  And, if your youngster wants more fun with the Monroe pets, Howe provides fans with six more books in the Bunnicula series.  Hare-ray!

So, hide your vegetables, put your garlic necklace on, and prepare yourself for some hare-raising fun with the most adorable vampire you’re likely to ever meet.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com

 

 

 

A Finder’s Magic by Philippa Pearce (J)

A Finders Magic

A Finder’s Magic  

Philippa Pearce (Juvenile Fantasy)

Till goes to bed in despair and wakes up desperate.  So deep is his desperation that you can see it in his dreams.  And one night, someone does see it.  That someone is a Finder.  A Finder that promises Till that he will help him find his beloved lost dog, Bess (for it is her absence that leads to all this unfortunate desperateness).  But finding Bess isn’t easy.  Clues need to be found, witnesses questioned, and leads followed.  Leads that point to a stranger, a thin line of light, and a nursery rhyme.

This book has a rather interesting backstory.  Pearce wrote this book for her two grandsons and it was illustrated by the children’s other grandmother, Helen Craig.  The main character’s name is an anagram of the two grandson’s names put together (Nat and Will) giving us Tillawn or Till for short.  Unfortunately, Pearce died before Craig began illustrating this book and was therefore deprived of seeing the beautiful book that their combined efforts produced.

Pearce gives young readers a wonderful tale of magic, mystery, and mischief.  The story deals with issues of loss and trust and tackles both with charm and humor.  After the book is finished, parents might want to remind their young reader that this is a fantasy book and, under ordinary circumstances, it is never appropriate to go running off with a stranger, especially one who offers to help you find your dog.

In the end, through all the questioning and searching and worrying, Finder gives Till something that replaces his desperation.  He gives him hope and although it’s not what Till wants, it’s what he needs and at that moment, hope is enough.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com

 

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (J)

The Westing Game

Ellen Raskin (Juvenile Mystery)

After missing for 13 years, millionaire industrialist Sam Westing is discovered dead in his bed.  Sixteen letters are hand delivered to each heir of his $200 million estate, thus setting in motion a most frantic and fantastic game.  The rules of Sam Westing’s game are simple: heirs compete in teams of two and, by using a unique set of clues, attempt to be the first to discover the identity of Westing’s killer.  The catch?  The murderer is one of them!

So begins Raskin’s classic mystery thriller that bombards readers with burglars, bombers, and bizarre characters.  The book’s initial pace allows readers to comfortably become acquainted with each character (16 is a lot to keep track of!) before zipping along at a whirlwind pace as situations become more perilous and characters grow more desperate to claim the coveted Westing Game prize.  Raskin gives us a whodunit that is a delightful, witty, and suspenseful read for any age.  Are you ready to play?

Rating: 4/5

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