Wednesday, February 9, 2011

EDGAR ALLAN’S OFFICIAL CRIME INVESTIGATION NOTEBOOK (Middle Grade)

by Mary Amato

Holiday House, 2010


A Book Review by Penny C. Monster


Oh, I don’t know what to do. I have this really good book to tell you about, but I don’t think I can. And I mean really good. I-couldn’t-put-it-down good. So good that the mystery in it had me guessing the whole time. So good that if I were a millionaire I’d buy a copy for everybody I know and everybody they know and everybody they know. And then I’d stop there because, you know, I’ll need some of that money to buy the private lagoon I’ve always wanted. If you haven’t read EDGAR ALLAN’S OFFICIAL CRIME INVESTIGATION NOTEBOOK by then, you can visit me at my lagoon and borrow my copy. But you’ll have read it by then for sure. After I tell you how good it is, you’ll probably have read it by the end of this week. I hope you’ll still come visit me at my lagoon, though. We’ll have fun. You like to swim, right?

Here’s the thing. If I tell you about this book, I’ll risk getting Bigfoot mad at me. I don’t know if you know this, but he has a policy against using this blog to recommend books that have a certain thing happen in them, which this book does. Do you know about this? It’s stated clearly here on the blog. I can’t be any more specific than that. If I tell you more, I’ll get called a blurter-outer again.

It’s hard to be me.

Anyway, the thing that happens that I won’t tell you about isn’t even the main part of the book, so technically I don’t think it should count.

That settles it. I am hereby officially using the BIGFOOT READS blog to recommend that you read EDGAR ALLAN’S OFFICIAL CRIME INVESTIGATION NOTEBOOK.

There. I did it. Now let’s just keep this between us.

You know something? Not to be mean, but I’m not totally sure I can trust you. It’s not like I think you’d tell on me on purpose, but I know how things can sometimes slip out on accident. Believe me, I know. So here’s my cover story. If Bigfoot sees this review, I’ll tell him that a hacker with good taste in books wrote it. Yeah, that’s what I’ll say.

The book starts with the theft of a fifth-grade classroom’s goldfish, Slurpy. The kids and their teacher find a note from the thief written on the chalkboard in the form of a poem. It’s all very mysterious.

The main character of the book is Edgar Allan. Poor Edgar doesn’t feel like he’s good at anything. He is, but at the beginning of the book he doesn’t know that. So Edgar decides he has to be the one to solve the mystery. I really connected with that part of Edgar’s character because I’ve always dreamed of being the first to solve the Bermuda Triangle mystery. I’d become rich and famous and finally be able to buy a lagoon (far away from the Bermuda Triangle, of course).

Things get tense quickly because Patrick Chen is on the case, too. Patrick is kind of like Edgar’s archenemy. He also wants to be the first to solve the mystery (of the stolen goldfish, not the Bermuda Triangle). And he has an edge—his dad is a forensic chemist who’ll be able to advise Patrick on how to analyze the clues. Soon Edgar and Patrick are in a mystery-solving competition.

Things are already partially poetic because of the thief’s note, but they get even more poetic when the language arts teacher, Mr. Crew, starts a poetry unit. Mr. Crew teaches the kids that “a poem is a gift.” Soon all sorts of poems are written in class and out of class: funny poems, sad poems, love poems, riddle-y poems, a poem in memory for somebody who has died. (As for that last poem, remember, Bigfoot doesn’t need to know about it.) Plus, there’s a poem left behind each time the thief strikes.

While they’re studying poetry, the kids learn that a poem can have more than one meaning. Like, say I write a poem that goes like this:

I
could
n’t
help
but
shake
the
cold,
a-
lu-
mi-
num
can,

then open it.

I’m sorry you didn’t like the soda in your nose.

You might think to yourself, “What a nice poem about an exploding carbonated beverage!” But if you examine the poem for another meaning, you might decide it could also be about me blurting out the ending of a book my friend hasn’t read yet and my friend getting mad at me for blurting out the ending of a book he hasn’t read yet. See? More than one meaning.

Edgar figures out that, like poems, lots of times there’s more to a person than you can tell unless you’re really paying attention. It’s like when people look at me and only see a purple-eyed sea creature. They’re not seeing the whole me. Yes, I have purple eyes, but I also have dreams of owning my own lagoon and of solving the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. Just by looking at me, people don’t know about my hidden fears of raindrops and fire ants or that I like eating fudge sundaes in the rain. Or that I envy whoever can read a really good book without inadvertantly, and with no malice whatsoever, blurting out the ending to a friend who hasn’t read it yet. See? I’m complex, like a poem.

This book has funny moments, sad moments, and red herrings aplenty. Plus, there’s insight into the human condition (and by extension, the cryptid condition). If you study the clues in Edgar’s official crime investigation notebook, maybe you’ll solve the mystery before he does, although that would be kind of mean since I’ve already told you how important it is to him that he be the one to crack the case.

I guess I’d better end this post before I get soda in your nose or, in non-poetic language, blurt out the ending. But before I go, I’ll share what I wrote for the author who, in addition to entertaining me with her mystery, has inspired me to want to write poetry:

A POEM FOR A STORYTELLER
Thanks for this gift
of a book I adore—
just don’t tell Bigfoot
about page eighty-four.

8 comments:

Kelly Butcher said...

Thank you so much for participating in Book Talk Tuesday! I love, love, love the review of this book- so much that I just placed a hold on it at the library. And how did I miss this book last year? Where have you been all my life? And, I support the policy that Big Foot has... does that really happen in this book?

Penny C. Monster said...

Yes, that thing really does happen in this book. So please don't tell Bigfoot or I'll be in big trouble!

Anonymous said...

I am reading this book in my literacy group and so far it has been a really good book and I want to keep reading it but I can't go past what I am needing to read but I can read one more chapter after I finsh the chapters I am suppose to read so it has been a really good book:)

Jessi said...

This sounds like such a fun read! Thanks for sharing! I'm kinda of, sorta really sad that my public library doesn't have this one...maybe I'll suggest that they buy it.

Jessi @ Reading in the Corner

Penny C. Monster said...

Anonymous, I understand. This is a hard book to put down. If you read ahead, I promise I won’t tell on you. In return, don’t tell Bigfoot about that pesky page 84. Deal?

Jessi, If you convince your library to buy it, you will be a hero. The other library patrons will carry you through the stacks on their shoulders while cheering “hurray for Jessi!” Then the librarian will probably kick you all out for making such a ruckus. So be sure to check the book out before you get yourself banned from the library.

Karen said...

Love it! Now I really will have to check this one out!

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I really liked Mary Amato's Naked Molerat Letters and I want to read this one. But maybe with that thing that happens in this book....I hate those kinds of books!! But maybe I'll still pick it up! Great review!

Penny C. Monster said...

Karen:
The key is to check out the book without causing a library ruckus like the one at Jessi’s library. Getting banned from the library is a bummer. Believe me, I know.

GreenBeanTeenQueen:
Yes, that thing does happen (unless Bigfoot asks—then it absolutely did not happen) but don’t let it stop you from reading this book. It’s a sad part, but it’s just a PART of the story. It happens on the side. Like french fries. French fries add to the meal, but the meat is in the main course. I guess that could be a problem if you’re a vegetarian. Now that I think about it, with a name like GreenBeanTeenQueen you might be. How about sprinkles on ice cream? So you’re sad when the sprinkles are gone but the ice cream will distract you with all its cold yummy goodness. And the cone…hmmm, what do you suppose the cone stands for here? The poems? No. That doesn’t make a lick of sense. Forget the cone. You’re eating your ice cream with sprinkles in a dish and the sprinkles are pretty and add some nice texture, but they are really more of a sidekick to the ice cream. Yes! Sidekick! Your ice cream can fight crime on its own without the sprinkles, even though the sprinkles do help out by lugging around the grappling hook.

What were we talking about?