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Kitchen Table Reviews: The Ransom Note Blues

This light-hearted whodunit is perfect for mystery fans.

By Mir Kamin | October 2 , 2009
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<i>The Ransom Note Blues</i> by Jill Santopolo
The Ransom Note Blues by Jill Santopolo

My kids have been into mysteries, lately, so I thought it was prime time to whip out the Alec Flint series. Alec aspires to be a super-sleuth, and with the help of sleuthing partner (and fellow fourth grade classmate) Gina, he’s already solved a big mystery and been written about in the local paper. This time, can they figure out what’s been stolen from the town before the thief does something even more drastic?

Me: I bet you liked this.

Son: I did. I love mysteries. And Alec was pretty cool, even if I did figure out the mystery way before he did.

Me: You did?

Son: Yeah, they’re kind of slow. But it’s okay, I liked it anyway.

Daughter: I solved it way before they did, too.

Son: I liked that they write to each other in code, and that you had to flip to the back to look up what they wrote.

Daughter: I liked Gina better than Alec. She’s smarter. And even he says over and over that she’s better at stuff than him. I kind of wished she was the main character. But I guess this is good for boys.

Me: You like lots of books where the main character is a boy! Are you saying this isn’t good for girls just because the main character is a boy?

Daughter: No, just saying I think girls would like it more if Gina was the main character. But it’s okay. I just think boys would really like it as is.

Son: I really liked it, and I’m a boy. Alec was my favorite character.

Me: Anything you didn’t like?

Son: Well, like I said, the mystery was pretty easy. It would’ve been okay with me if it was harder to figure out.

Daughter: I didn’t like Emily. She was totally annoying.

Me: Did this book remind you of any others you’ve read?

Daughter: It kind of reminded me of the A to Z Mysteries.

Me: It kind of reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown. You know, if his mysteries took longer.

Son: Oh yeah! It was kind of like that.

Daughter: Yeah, I can see that.

Me: So this is good for what ages?

Son: Maybe 8 and up.

Daughter: I say 8-11 or so, and especially for boys.

Me: Oh, one more thing—did you like all of the stuff about Jackson Pollock’s artwork? I thought that was really interesting.

Son: Yeah, that was cool.

Daughter: Yeah, you sort of learn without realizing it.

Very, very sneaky. I like it.

Pros: Writing in code is totally cool. Boy/girl friendships portrayed as no big deal. Gives kids a sneaky side-serving of art history (Jackson Pollock is a “fun” artist for kids).

Cons: Maybe a little bit too easy to solve. Emily is kind of annoying. My daughter contends that—as Gina is portrayed as being smarter and better at everything—she ought to be the title character.

The Ransom Note Blues is a light, enjoyable whodunit for the early- to middle-grade set—so decree the three thumbs up at our kitchen table.

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