Within my new class there is a distinct division between those more confident readers and those less confident ones, and while the first group are well catered for with exciting reads on my little library shelf up until recently, I have struggled to provide the second group with the same sort of choice of titles.
When this short mystery dropped onto the doormat together with another title from publisher Sweet Cherry, I was thrilled that here was another read for those children – one which is easily accessible and yet does not have the appearance of what they would deem to be a babyish book, something very important by the time you reach upper KS2 when each and every child is only too aware of the class hierarchy. With a few of my class hooked on Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series and other similar books, this short mystery aimed at readers aged 7+ is a fabulous gateway book to those longer, more challenging texts and is one which I cannot wait to share.
Rather than Daisy and Hazel, our young detectives are twins Agatha and Christie who are as different from one another as the proverbial chalk and cheese. Both, however, are united in their liking of cake and are sitting down to tea with their mother and neighbour Mrs Trellis. While Christie is bored rigid, Agatha is hanging attentively on every word of the adults’ conversation and is thrilled when Mrs Trellis invites her to a tea party the following afternoon at which one of Agatha’s favourite writers will be present.
Arriving at their hosts’ house for the party, a nervous Agatha is made welcome and when she is offered a sandwich takes one and politely proceeds to eat it. Also at the party is scientist Alexander Fleming who tells those gathered that he has a wonderful discovery to share with them – something that will benefit all of humanity. Unfortunately, the precious discovery has been hidden within a sandwich – a sandwich which appears to have vanished. Has Agatha eaten the precious breakthrough? And if not, what has happened to it? As she and Christie turn detective, can they solve the mystery and return the scientist’s work to him?
This is such a wonderful story – utterly charming and gentle so that it will not upset the more sensitive readers in my class for whom graphic details of murder might prove a little too much. Agatha and Christie are a great pairing, with each bringing their own unique skills to their investigation and their different personalities shining through so that they are treated as individuals by those around them rather than dual aspects of one person as so often happens to twins in real life.
While both girls are great role models, Christie in particular demonstrates that girls can take an interest in science – something that I know many of us are trying to encourage in primary schools. This, together with the short section at the back of the book which enlightens younger readers about Alexander Fleming and his discovery of penicillin, will go a long way towards inspiring girls to see that traditionally male-dominated roles are open to them too.
I really enjoyed this story and although I chose to read it rather than listen to the free audiobook version which is included in QR code form, the option to listen to the book will be a popular one with many children and their adults. The good news is that this is the first in a new series and the sequel – Of Mountains and Motors – is scheduled for publication in August next year. Enormous thanks must go to publisher Sweet Cherry for my gifted copy of this title which is on sale now. 5 out of 5 stars.