Review Blog

Sep 20 2019

Scoop McLaren detective editor by Helen Castles

cover image

Illus. by Beatriz Castro. New Frontier, 2019. ISBN: 9781925594836. 134p.
(Age: 9+ ) Recommended. Themes: Mystery. Scoop's father is the editor of the 'Higgity Harbour Gazette'. Our young narrator is following in his footsteps by editing her own newspaper online. 'Click' is a first for Higgity Harbour but certainly not the only digital edition of the news.
A new online publication becomes immediately problematic. 'The Dark Times', written and edited by Sony Fink is published daily at one minute past midnight. Sony Fink has a supernatural ability to predict unusual and increasingly catastrophic events - mouse plagues, cyclones, frog rain . . . and that's just for starters! Whilst Scoop ponders this new mystery with the help of Evie, her roving reporter, she must try to identify Sony Fink by a process of elimination - often pointing the finger at the wrong person, like Dr Blaxland's daughter, Imogen. Thankfully, with every pronouncement of new and interesting suspects, a useful insight saves the day.
Whilst Higgity Harbour is not the Cabot Cove of Murder She Wrote, Scoop proves herself a competent amateur detective. Freedom of the press is crucial, particularly in our current political climate. The Scoop McLaren series could prompt timely discussion about ethical journalism and political influence upon the media.
In addition to Helen Castle's fast paced narrative, compounded every day by another fantastic or disastrous event for Higgity Harbour, Beatriz Castro's illustrations arouse our curiosity. The back cover demonstrates authentic front page layout with masthead, headline, byline, columns, images etc.
The narrator may lose credibility with each setback, but she persists in her singular quest for the truth as the attacks on the town continue. Each sparse article, whether published by Scoop, Dad, Kenny (the delivery boy) or Sony, employs essential generic features. Indeed, Scoop appends 12 practical writing tips for budding journalists to the novel, and, Helen Castles has uploaded Teacher's Notes that will help tie this middle school novel, to a unit of work based on Newspaper reporting.
Deborah Robins

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