Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pie Thief: The Case of the July 4th Jinx (Milo & Jazz Mysteries) by Lewis B. Montgomery

Milo asked Jazz, "Do you think the fair is jinxed?"

"I don't believe in jinxes," Jazz said firmly

"Then how come so many things are going wrong? Animals getting loose, Uncle Sam losing air, hot peppers in the fireworks box... and now this."

"Any of those things could have been an accident." Jazz pointed out.

"Yeah," Milo said, "but that's a lot of accidents."

But when the stage music CD of "Viola's Violets" cued up for Viola Pritchett's School of Dance turns out to be a heavy metal song, "YOU'RE IN THE JUNGLE BABY!," the little purple-flower-costumed girls start to gyrate and leap around the stage, and Miss Pritchett almost has a conniption. Even the rational Milo is beginning to believe the July 4th Fair has been jinxed, but Jinx points out some more reasonable suspects, the Zoo Crew, a group of rough, tough pranksters who just happen to hanging around the scene of all these disasters.

But then another scene of mayhem ensues. Screaming kids are climbing in panic out of the kiddy plastic ball pit, and a little girl admits to hiding a five-foot rubber snake beneath the balls. And, she says, a big boy told her to do it. But she cannot identify any of the Zoo Crew as the culprit.

Finally someone steals champion baker Mrs. Smalley's beautiful lemon meringue pie just before the judging, and it looks like there's no way to solve the case before the July 4th Fair becomes a total disaster!

But then Milo gets the next installment in his sleuthing lessons in the mail from Dash Marlowe, teacher of the Secrets of A Super Sleuth. Dash Marlowe's directions for disguise, role-playing, and infiltration of suspect gangs gives Milo an idea how to get inside the Zoo Crew to gather evidence. Will his undercover work prove that the big, tough kids are indeed the dastardly spoilers of the town's holiday fun? Or is there a real perpetrator hiding in plain view?

Mystery books are sure-fire best-sellers with book lovers and library readers of all ages, and kids are no different, especially those just beginning to tackle chapter fiction. Lewis B. Montgomery's latest The Case of the July 4th Jinx (Milo and Jazz Mysteries) (Kane Press, 2010), the fifth in this popular series, has plenty of clues, blind alleys, and suspects to keep young readers turning the pages through the ten short chapters. Many illustrations by Amy Wummer break up the text to make reading easier, and an appendix of "Super Sleuthing Strategies" gives young detective wannabes tips, brain stretchers to puzzle over, mini-cases, and observation exercises for some follow-up fun.

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