Review Blog

May 22 2012

Ophelia Wild, Secret Spy by Elena de Roo

cover image

Illustrated by Tracy Duncan. Walker Books, 2012. 79pp.
(Ages: 7-10) Recommended. Ophelia Wild, Secret Spy and her trusty assistant Albert are set up to solve all the toughest cases from their tree-house headquarters and they demonstrate their skills in cooperation, respect and persistence in this gem of an easy reading book.
Divided into three quite distinct chapters which are essentially narrative poems, this book delights young and old by its simple portrayal of good-will, friendship and how cleverness and ingenuity can overcome thuggish unkindness. Written completely in verse the three sections follow Ophelia and Albert as they outsmart the bullyboy gang, not once but twice, and solve a mystery involving a cat, an elderly man and some missing false teeth.
Elena de Roo has done a fantastic job with the flow and rhythm of the text. It never seems forced and follows a wonderful narrative flow that makes it easy and delightful to read. Not only is this a fabulous book to read aloud but one which when reading it alone it seems impossible (for me anyway) to not add the rhythm and expression that the text seems to demand. The large black and white illustrations which adorn every page add to the playful and bubbly nature of the story.
The 'bully' theme is quite a major one in this book and is quite stereotypical in its portrayal of bullies as beanie-wearing, spiky-haired, courage-in-numbers types. Assistant Albert is also a stereotypical intelligent book-reading child with oversized glasses. The lack of grey area or depth of character seems unimportant however, in a story focused on beautiful themes of community, friendship and strength over adversity in a simplified manner. This is the first Ophelia Wild book and I am hopeful that it won't be the last.
Nicole Smith-Forrest

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