Two in One

Another milestone unlocked – Iris recommended a book to me because she thought I would like it. Furthermore, the book in question is deceptively childish but actually deals with some pretty adult themes and situations.

Andreas Steinhöfel’s The Pasta Detectives is a crime thriller for kids. Those are three words you wouldn’t think to hear together, but, IMO, perfectly describes this book. It is about Rico, a “child proddity”, the opposite of a prodigy. Sometimes thoughts get jumbled up in his head like lottery balls. He lives in an apartment with his mum and his only friend is a depressive butcher whose husband left her for another woman. Then he meets Oscar, a tiny child prodigy, who wears a motorcycle helmet all the time because he is paranoid about the world. The unlikely friendship is suddenly thrown a spanner when the nefarious child kidnapper, Mr 2000, kidnaps Oscar. It’s up to Rico to solve the mystery and save Oscar before he gets chopped up into bits because Oscar’s alcoholic dad doesn’t have €2000 to pay the ransom. Like I said, it’s a crime thriller for kids.

It is much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in tone and certain plot similarities. Rico has to overcome his difficulties to solve the problem and is tasked to write down his holiday experiences by his teacher to help sort out his thoughts. As I read it, I thought it had some pretty scary bits, but Iris didn’t seem fazed about a child being kidnapped and possibly chopped up or the part where the boys get chased by the kidnapper through a dark, bombed out building. 4.5⭐

A few days after I read The Pasta Detectives, we finished the book I had been reading to Iris at bedtime, Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. Hence this double review post.

One of my strongest childhood memories is of going to the library at my primary school. The thrill of discovering a great read made me into the reader I am today. Back then though, there weren’t as many chapter books for ages 6 to 9, apart from Famous Five, Amelia Jane and a few others. For those without crotch spawn who read, chapter books are books with the same characters, doing similar things in each book, like a sitcom. So trying out new writers and new plot lines was the norm back in my childhood. Unlike today, when I go to Iris’ school library, there are about five square metres’ worth of chapter books aimed at that age group.

Chapter books are great for fostering a love of learning because they are easy and quick to digest, but once a child is reading fluently, they should move on to more complex books. Yet, much like television, it’s so much more tempting to just watch a sitcom than an involved dramatic movie. This is one reason continuing to read to your child even though they could easily read those books themselves, is so important. Iris would not have picked up or continued reading Bronte Mettlestone if I hadn’t been doing it with her. For one, it’s much easier to have someone read you the difficult bits. For another, my inflections and accents are way better (if I do say so myself, ahem), allowing her to really get into the story.

As for the book itself, we absolutely loved it. Granted, as a parent I was rather miffed with Bronte’s parents for leaving her with her aunt and running off to “have adventures”. However, I should have realised earlier than halfway through that her parents would never have done that.

When Bronte is ten, she receives a telegram saying her parents have been killed by pirates. Then a will turns up instructing her to visit each of her other ten aunts to give them specific gifts and she has to obey every explicit instruction otherwise her hometown will fall apart as the will is bound by fairy cross stitch. Yep, that about sets the tone for this book for you. Her ensuing adventures are varied, exciting and enthralling. Besides which I adore Kelly Canby’s illustrations.

Recommended for ages 8 and up to fantasy-loving adults. 4.5⭐

A postscript on my starring system for anyone still with me. I only award 5 stars to those, perfect books I would read again.

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