Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flatfoot Fox and the Case of the Missing Eye By Eth Clifford, Illustrated by Brian Lies

Can you keep up with Flatfoot Fox, “the Smartest Detective in the Whole World”? Try Flatfoot Fox and the Case of the Missing Eye. to find out. It’s the first of the Flatfoot Fox series by Eth Clifford, in which our hero solves mysteries for his forest friends.

In this case, a glass eye disappears at a birthday party, so all the guests become suspects--one of the detective terms Flatfoot Fox explains in his questioning of characters such as Greedy Goat. From the first suspect, who thinks a letter “I” was stolen instead of a glass eye, to Picky Pig’s father telling him that he must make a pig of himself to turn into a hog, the laughs will draw the reader in. Tagging along to take notes is Flatfoot Fox’s assistant--Secretary Bird, of course (who looks like the real bird of that name) . The bird makes himself useful as well by giving encouraging pecks to reluctant suspects and snatching contraband with his beak!

Secretary Bird also asks questions, but finds out that only Flatfoot Fox is allowed to ask questions, since HE is the detective. Fortunately for us, he will answer Secretary Bird’s questions back at the office, helping the reader to see how he arrived at his brilliant conclusion.

Between the humor (about third-grade-boy level, if I recall my sons’ jokes at that age correctly) and the drawings on every page with amusing details that extend the story, reading the Flatfoot Fox books will not be a chore. They’ll be fun for children who are just ready for chapter books, even those who think sometimes that reading is too much work.

These books are not too much anything: not too many words, not too hard, not too long. The repetition of phrases in the question-and-answer format of the “interrogations” will reinforce words decoded and help make the reading smoother. There are a few long words, but, even if help is needed the first time, the sense of accomplishment that comes from reading names like Secretary Bird and Really Ridiculous Rabbit over and over will be a bonus!

Nate the Great fans might want to investigate Flatfoot Fox and the Case of the Missing Eye and the other titles in the series as they sneak up from Beginning Readers to the Youth section of the library to find chapter books. After that, moving on to the Cam Jansen books by David A. Adler and the A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy will be as natural as reading. Ask at your Virginia Beach Public Library about early chapter books and detective series; there are several more that young private eyes will love.

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