The recorder racket by Anna Battese. Illus. by Ruth-Mary Smith

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This is the first in a new early chapter book series about PD McPem and her problem solving (another already published is The Puzzling Pet Parade). It's the school holidays and Penelope Delores (PD for short) is spending the day with her grandparents, who are busy doing their annual clean out. When her recorder mysteriously vanishes, PD is worried she will never 'fweet' again but luckily her and grandpa had already decided to start a detective agency so it's fortuitous that there is a mystery to solve! Some beautiful imagery sees clues 'itching' PD and the relationships between PD, Grandma and Grandpa are rich and laden with wonderful dialogue. The theme of memory is strong, both with Grandma seeming to forget things and Grandpa's reminiscing about the past as he sorts through old mementos. There are wonderful inside jokes about the dreaded recorder that parents will enjoy and the hint of a secret that Grandma might just be keeping! Super short paragraphs (maximum of about 5 lines), oodles of white space and a smattering of black and white illustrations make this perfect for newly independent readers, especially those having trouble making the transition to mostly text chapter books but it's also a fabulous read aloud. This is a cleverly put together story, with multiple layers of meaning making it great for inference. Children will have great fun trying to put together the clues themselves to solve the mystery and with a second read they might pick up on some new meanings. There is also a wonderful freedom of childhood depicted here, as PD enjoys her day at her grandparents as they go about daily tasks like cooking, cleaning and gardening while she potters alongside them and makes her own fun. 

Themes: Mystery Stories, Family, Memory.

Nicole Nelson