Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery (Renée Treml, A&U)
Middle primary readers seem to have an unquenchable thirst for illustrated, funny novels, with kids devouring series after series of the ‘Treehouse’ books, ‘The Bad Guys’, and ‘Dog Man’. Renée Treml’s Sherlock Bones will satisfy such readers. Sherlock, who is a skeleton of a tawny frogmouth, is an energetic museum ‘guide’ (after hours, of course), who brings the reader on his adventure, along with his good friend Watts (a stuffed Indian parrot) and a raccoon who may or may not be on their side. The mystery-driven plot moves insistently forward even when there’s a lack of action. Managing the mystery genre for the age group is a challenge, and in Sherlock Bones relevant clues are sometimes skimmed over too quickly, while the conceit of Watts as a silent, inanimate character whose every imagined thought is interpreted for us by Sherlock is repetitive and heavy-handed. Despite this, the writing is warm and friendly, Sherlock is easy to relate to and readers will enjoy small touches of humour. At 272 pages the book feels substantial for young readers but the text itself is accessible and sparse within the panel-style layout. The design is clean yet detailed—museum specimens, labels and artefacts abound, and a few fun natural history facts are integrated, providing a bit of educational interest for readers aged 6-9.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, an editor and writer, is a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop