Precious and the Monkeys by Alexander McCall Smith

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Precious and the Monkeys by Alexander McCall Smith

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A detective story for children which introduces Precious Ramotswe, star of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, solving one of her earliest mysteries...great for children, and one for grown up fans to sneak a read of too!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Polygon
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846972041

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Someone has been stealing food at Precious' school. There are suspicions about who it might be, but no one is sure so Precious sets out to try and discover the truth as to just where all those snacks are disappearing off to...

I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, so I was excited to be able to introduce my daughter to Precious Ramotswe, star of the books. Here we meet her as a child at school, just starting to develop an interest in solving mysteries. The style is really very similar to his adult books. I felt he had perhaps just slowed the pace slightly, simplified some of the thoughts he usually inserts into his books, and made a plot that was easily accessible for children to understand. Actually, some of the cases Mma Ramotswe faces as a grown up could still probably be read by children as they are usually fairly simple and don't often involve anything too horrible or frightening. However, the human emotions in the adult books are quite complex at times, so here matters are simplified and made immediately appealing to children. What child would not be able to identify with the trauma of a missing snack at school, or the suspicions that perhaps the overweight boy is the one who took it?

I liked the steady pace to the story, and the explanations of how to pronounce some of the Botswanan names. We get to see Precious' relationship with her father which is nice, and also how her character was already forming itself at an early age - her interests in discovering the truth rather than jumping to conclusions. The text is easy to follow. I read it aloud to my four year old and we got through the book in just a couple of sittings. It's also perfect for more confident readers too, split into short chapters and not too difficult but challenging enough to be engaging.

The text is linked to the illustrations at times, with the author commenting on people as their pictures appear in the story. The illustrations themselves are all in brown, white and black, sometimes with a lino-print feel to them. They help the story along and although they're often only small they add atmosphere as you read. There's something on every page, so you're never without something to look at as you read.

I liked that the story shows how kind Precious is, how thoughtful she is towards the young boy who is wrongly accused of being the thief, and I really enjoyed seeing how Precious goes about proving his innocence and revealing the true culprits! McCall Smith's adult stories are always full of down to earth morals, his belief in the good in people and the world. Some people find this trite and overly simplistic, I know, but I like the heart-warming feeling I get when I finish one of his books. It pleases me that this has flowed into his children's books, and my little girl and I are very much looking forward to reading more of Precious' early cases.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Young readers might also like the following story, also by Alexander McCall Smith: Akimbo and the Snakes.

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Buy Precious and the Monkeys by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Precious and the Monkeys by Alexander McCall Smith at


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