A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee
|A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A second quirky adventure for the under-twelves, featuring a police-toad and his mouse deputy. Charm and visual pleasure again win out over complete coherence and long-term appeal, but it's well worth a look.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 108||Date: April 2017|
|Publisher: Gecko Press|
The last time we saw the toad called Detective Gordon at work he had a mouse colleague in the forest police with him, and in fact the two were so close they often shared a bed in the old prison cells together. But now Gordon has practically retired, and the mouse, Police Chief Buffy, is doing all the work herself. It's quite scary work, too, when something horrid, nasty and slightly smelling of toad is rootling around the police station at night. But when the two are together there's no stopping them, and any crime can be solved – which is probably a very good thing when not one but two of the forest babies go missing…
There are many top-level qualities to this book. I once more love the presentation – warm and whimsical illustrations that touch every spread so there's always something easy on the eye, lovely pastel-backed double-page artworks to launch each chapter, and firm, bright white paper stock and a very readable page. There's also the slight subversion of crime tale tropes – the haggard old Detective, put out to pasture but not really able to leave the job behind him in his retirement, and the rookie type trying to find her feet, both played out by cute critters. I loved the contrast between the two when they have to get some clues out of a classroom of junior animals, and the very nature of their detective work in these chapters is really good.
And yet… Two little wee babby animals missing, the whole forest coming together in unison to help, everyone (apart from Gordon, it seems) singing songs – the twee levels here are once again a little too high. Too high for me, at least, and more importantly too high for too old/mature a child. I'm all for a book like this being read by the target audience, and they will love it, with its immediacy and fun, but they will scoff at its contents too rapidly. Not every character, shall we say, behaves completely intelligently, Buffy is too quick to make a wondrous present all of a sudden, and the whole thing is racist to foxes – yes, in a world where every animal loves every other, it's the big bad fox that's supposed to be the incorrigible criminal.
That stereotype aside, there is still a lot of joyful freshness here. So while I disagree with a few of the author's decisions, and can't see this being a firm family favourite for too long, it still has to go down as a very pleasurable read.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop – with its own unusual couple of animal friends, in a snake and a lizard – is a little niche but clever with it.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee at Amazon.com.
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