Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Cake Mystery

Yesterday we went to watch the fireworks at the Lincoln Memorial.  They really are quite amazing and we had a fabulous time.  If you ever have the chance to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington, D.C.,  I highly recommend it.

As I ran out the door I grabbed a copy of Alexander McCall Smith's The Great Cake Mystery and threw it in my bag.  On the metro ride down, my 7 year-old daughter fished it out and she and two of her friends crowded around my seat as I began reading.  

The Great Cake Mystery tells the story of Precious Ramotswe, a young girl living in Africa who is destined to become a detective. In fact when Precious grows up she is the heroine of McCall Smith's bestselling series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, although that really makes no difference to the child reader.  The story tells of the first mystery that Precious experiences that turns her towards the life of a detective.  Food keeps disappearing from the school, a piece of cake, a slice of bread with strawberry jam and then iced buns.  A rotund boy is accused but denies snatching the food and Precious sets out to solve the mystery looking for evidence and proof.  

This story is a very quick read - we finished it on the metro ride home with plenty of time to spare.  The soon to be second grade girls really enjoyed the story and the ending.  Precious is a very likable character, the descriptions of life in Africa are interesting and the mystery is fun.  The illustrations, by Iain McIntosh, are simply done in just red, black and gray, but they might just steal the show.  

While overall I thought this was a fun, easy read that the targeted age did enjoy, I must say the writing wore a little on me.  I don't like writing that talks down to children and over explains so that children will understand - and I felt that this novel did that when it was not necessary.  The space taken in the novel for multiple explanations could have been used for more detail and descriptions.  That being said, overall it was a fun read that we all enjoyed on the way to our fourth of July festivities.   

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