Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review - Case of the Christmas Concert Catastrophe

Case of the Christmas Concert Catastrophe (Rourke's Mystery Chapter Books)
by Kyla Steinkraus
illustrated by David Ouro
Date: 2015
Publisher: Rourke Educational Media
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: library

What do glitter snowflakes, aliens, and singing have in common? Join the Gumshoe Gang at Watson Elementary as they solve the latest mystery. Lyra is so excited for the Christmas concert that she has a hard time focusing on anything else. That is until someone starts sabotaging the decorations needed for the concert. Who would want to get the concert canceled? Why are the teachers acting so strangely? These mysteries are perfectly suited to keep readers guessing as they solve for clues. With longer sentences and fewer illustrations, they are just the right fit for your early fluent reader.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've been trying to remember back to what I was reading when I was in grade three. All I can remember is Anne of Green Gables and its first sequel, and Beverly Cleary's books... none of which were as dumbed-down or outright annoying as this supposed mystery.

I disliked the main character, Lyra, right away. She's such a conceited, selfish little witch that I hated being in her head (the story's told in the first person from her point of view). When she doesn't get her way, she sulks. This has a benefit, though, because she stops breaking the rules and talking out of turn in class when she's sulking. (And the kid doesn't just talk. She'll blurt out stuff about how she's the best singer in third grade, right in front of other kids who have to share the stage with her. Check your ego, please. Sheesh.) The kids in these books continually stretch the rules (or outright break them), even though they know better. But the teachers are no help. Lyra and her friends are allowed to run around the school during class time to try to solve the mystery. I wish some of the other kids had called the teachers on that BS. Why should Lyra and her friends get out of their schoolwork? What makes them so special?

It wasn't that they were great detectives. I figured out who the culprit was almost from the moment they were introduced. The hints were pretty obvious. I hoped I was wrong, but this is for kids, so I guess it had to be spelled out pretty clearly. Unfortunately, when only Lyra (because she's so speshul) figures out who did the crime, it makes everyone else around her--including the adults--look like a bunch of morons. (Why didn't Tully solve the mystery? She's the one who wrote down all those obvious clues in her notebook. The same notebook that Lyra looked at to solve the case!) And, when it came right down to it, the culprit turned out to be just as selfish as Lyra herself. None of the kids in this school appear to have a lick of empathy (except after they've already hurt each other with their words).

When I read a book like this that's supposed to be for beginning readers, I expect impeccable writing and editing. This was okay for about the first third, but then there were typos, missing punctuation marks (and even wrong punctuation marks), and even a character's name that wasn't spelled consistently. I also didn't like Caleb's shtick with the mangled idioms; that assumes that kids are familiar with the correct ones, and I don't know if they would be familiar with all of them, especially at this age. At first, I even assumed that the author was getting them wrong because of some of the other technical errors in the writing. (If you're going to play around with words like that, the rest of the text needs to be absolutely perfect, or you run the risk of having those things look like errors.)

So, due to unlikable characters, a weak plot, an overly obvious answer to the mystery, and plenty of technical problems in the writing itself, I can't recommend this one.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.75 out of 5

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