Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee

I'm utterly charmed by this little mystery.

It's set in a forest in the depth of winter. A squirrel discovers that someone has been stealing his nuts and takes his case to Detective Gordon, a toad. Along the way to solving the case, Detective Gordon nearly freezes to death but is rescued by a small mouse. He ends up making this mouse his assistant. Between the two of them, they manage to find the culprits who have stolen the nuts. 

I am enchanted by the relationship between the aging Detective Gordon and, Buffy, his young mouse assistant. I especially appreciate that they dine on cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In this image, they are waiting to come up with an idea while the cakes tantalize and motivate them. 

Spee's glorious watercolour illustrations accent the essence of the forest and add extra emotional impact to the story. 

I am seduced by the nuanced morality and ethical conundrums that are laid out in this short novel. There is something Dickensian and at the same time, modern in this. Look at this quote to see what I mean. 

"How many nuts do you own?"
'Fifteen thousand, seven hundred and four," the squirrel said quickly. "One-five-seven-oh-four."
The detective nodded.
"We must have a forest where everybody is happy," he said. "The crime shall be punished. But if someone is in trouble--say they're dizzy and about to faint and need a bite to eat--we're understanding. We must make allowances in our forest. All of us."
"All of us! Allowances!" The squirrel scoffed. "Now I'm so angry I can't speak. I'm going."

This book in it's morality, language, and illustrations is reminiscent of William Steig's The Real Thief. I enjoyed it, but I'm worried that, like Steig's title, which enthralled readers when read with me, but languished on the shelf in spite of my cajoling otherwise, won't endear itself to independent reading. 

It's written at what I'm guessing is about a grade four reading level. This will make it fine for sophisticated younger readers, but I'm not sure it will entice many of my readers at this age level. That said, I believe it will make a very fine read aloud for grade four and younger. Maybe even older students will enjoy it. After all, I did. 

No comments:

Post a Comment