Friday, January 29, 2010

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

The Brixton Brothers, #1
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

I've been reading quite a few mysteries lately, and this has got to be my favorite. And I predict it won't be long before there are quite a few other readers who agree with me.

Steve Brixton absolutely loves the Bailey Brothers mysteries. He's read all of them and counts them as the best books ever. In fact, he's very carefully cut out the center of the pages of a Guinness Book of World Records in order to hide his top-secret notebook containing the 59 best books ever written. And all of those books are Bailey Brothers adventures.

But school interferes with reading, especially when his teacher assigns a report for weekend homework. Asked to draw a report topic out of a hat, Steve watches in horror as his best friend Dana draws the subject 'detectives' while he himself draws 'early American needlework'. Disappointed but resigned, he heads to the library to do some research, finding a book on quilting by someone named J. J. Beckley. Just as the librarian scans the book's barcode, the lights go out, an alarm sounds, and Steve watches in horror as black-clad figures come crashing through the door, windows, and skylight. As the men close in on him, Steve runs. Why are they after him? Is it really for the $3.45 in library fines he owes? Or is there something special about the quilting book he checked out? Steve has to use all of the detective skills he's read about in the Bailey Brother's books to solve this mystery.

If you are a fan of the Hardy Boys books, you'll recognize that author Mac Barnett has created a hilarious parody of those well-loved mysteries. Steve and buddy Dana, whom Steve likes to call his chum, try to solve the mystery surrounding the quilting book using tips from the Bailey Brothers detective handbook. But they learn the hard way that what happens on the printed page doesn't always happen quite so smoothly in real life. For example, when Steve tries to track down a Mr. Grabes at a dockside bar, he dons a sailor costume in the hopes of blending in with the other sailors. But these sailors wear jeans and t-shirts making Steve look out of place. The gig is up when Steve's fake mustache falls into his milk.

Situation after funny situation like this one propel the story forward to a surprising ending. Of course, if you're a Hardy Boys fan, you'll have been able to spot the real thief all along. But even if you do, don't give up on this one. On the last page, Steve says his next case is The Ghost Writer Secret, making me highly suspicious that this will not be the one and only Brixton Brothers book. If my deductions are correct, I can't wait for the next installment.

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