Friday, December 29, 2017

Detective Gordon : The first case by Ulf Nilsson illustrated by Gitte Spee

Here is an absolutely brilliant little book with all the ingredients I enjoy in a junior story - cake, colour illustrations, cake, lots of laugh aloud moments, cake, kindness, cake, problem solving, memorable characters, cake and a very happy ever after ending. 

Let's talk about the cake.  For every meal Detective Gordon opens a cake tin or two.  I love the idea that behind the scenes someone is filling these tins.

"These are the evening and night cakes," he said. They were chocolate cakes with blackcurrant jam."

"Good morning. Now we're going to have a little morning cake. They're kept in the second big tin, the morning tin.' He opened the lid and set out four cakes. Vanilla cakes with strawberry jam."

"It's time for warm milk and lunch cakes.' He took four cakes from the final tin. Oat cakes with bits of candied orange. The lunchtime cakes were very good, they agreed."

Back to the case at hand.  Someone has taken 204 nuts from Vladimir the squirrel.  He does have 15704 nuts stored in various hiding places but each individual nut is very precious to Vladimir and he is desperate to find the thief.  Detective Gordon listens carefully to the details of the case.  He then uses his important stamp to make everything official. 

"The detective took out the big old-fashioned stamp, placed it on the paper, moved it a little to the right and then a little to the left. Then he pressed, Kla-dunk, it went."

Detective Gordon sets off into the snow to look for clues.  He meets a little mouse who is holding one nut but she is not the thief.  She has no name, no home and no occupation so Detective Gordon gives her the name Buffy and offers her a job as his assistant. 

"Is it really true that I'm a policewoman, chief?' ... Buffy heard the chair squeak. And then she heard the big stamp being placed on paper, moved a little, and then moved back again. Kla-dunk. Buffy bubbled over inside."

This newly formed team work together to quickly solve the crime and Vladimir thanks them with the special gift of a double hazelnut - the kind you can use to make wishes.  Detective Gordon wishes for  a community free from all crime - such a timely sentiment.  Buffy does keep asking to use his pistol but Gordon explains "To take the pistol one must be very wise and very careful. It's dangerous ... "

This little book arrived in our school library in 2015 - how silly am I not to have picked it up to read until today!  This is a ten out of ten book and it would make a terrific read-aloud with a Grade 1 or 2 class. I would follow this with the Frog and Toad series, Pigsticks and Harold and The Nut map by Susanna Gretz.

Ulf Nilsson is the author of over 100 books but as far as I can discover only a handful are available in English. Huge thanks go again to Gecko Press for this translation.  Take a look at this review.  I should also mention the art work by Gitte Spee and the fabulous map on the last page.

Here are the next two books in this series and comments from the School Library Journal about the second book.

Once again, Nilsson (Detective Gordon: The First Case, [Gecko, 2015]) delivers a rare gem of a book with age-appropriate content for precocious young readers. Full of droll asides and an emphasis on the importance of kindness, this is also an excellent read-aloud selection for classrooms or families.  Amy Nolan SLJ

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