Wednesday, October 5, 2016
The case of the missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Title : The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Cover : Which one do you like?
Augusta Ada Byron later Ada Lovelace
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin later Mary Shelley
Setting : London 1826
Crime : Theft of the Acorn of Ankara from Turkey made of moonstone (sodium potassium aluminium silicate) said to have the property of mesmerism
Words you need to know : mesmerism, clandestine, constabulary
Ada is eleven and living in a large house all alone except for some loyal servants. Her absent mother - wife of the famous poet Lord Byron - has arranged for a tutor to take over from Ada's long time nanny or nurse Miss Coverlet. The new tutor is named Percy Snagsby or Peebs (later revealed to actually be Percy Shelly long time friend of the now dead Lord Byron) and he is also to tutor a young girl named Mary Godwin - daughter of the famous feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft. Ada is precocious and incredibly intelligent but not wise at all in the ways of the world. Mary is a sensible older girl who is well versed in all the limits that society places on young girls in eighteenth century Britain. The two girls decide to set up The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.
There are some difficulties, however. The girls cannot travel to The Times to place their advertisement or collect their letters. "Riding a carriage without an escort is modern. But travelling out and about unescorted is unheard of." This is where the girls enlist the help of a young man called Charles. He travels each day in the same coach as Mary but he is not supposed to be there as he could never afford the fare. He has made a deal with the coachman and now Charles can happily read in peace on his way to the boot-polish factory each day. He quickly becomes a friend to Mary.
Our two girls now hear of a crime involving the Acorn of Ankara and a young lady called Rebecca Verdigris. Rebecca is convinced her maid Rosie did not steal this jewel even though Rosie has readily confessed and is now in Newgate prison.
Read this review for more details of the plot or just pick up this book and enjoy an engrossing read. As for the hot air balloon you can see on the cover. You need to read this book to discover where it is located, how it is used and what role it plays in the capture of the jewel thief.
Here is an interview with the author. By coincidence I made friends with a lady who lives on Salt Spring Island in BC, Canada when I was travelling in Scotland! Also this book series has a web page with extracts and puzzles.
Kirkus criticize this book series for 'bending the truth' putting famous characters together who in real life, while they may be connected, would not have actually met. I don't think this is an issue for young readers. The notes at the end of the book give an excellent explanation of all the famous people who feature in this story and in our school library we have these two picture book biographies which students can read following The Case of the Missing Moonstone. These lines towards the end made me smile :
"Thank you Lady Ada for a bit of excitement. It's back to the boot-polish factory for me.' Charles executed a small bow and headed to work. ... 'Who the dickens was that boy?' asked Peebs."
I really like the illustrations in this book and in fact Kelly Murphy is the illustrator of other books I have reviewed here - The Miniature world of Marvin and James, Secrets at Sea, and Masterpiece.