Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Mystery of the Missing Goop

Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop
by N. Griffin
Recommended Ages: 10+

Smashie and her best friend Dontel attend third grade together in Room 11. When their teachers announce the third graders from Rooms 11 and 12 have two weeks to prepare for a musicale (a talent show, really), Smashie is only disappointed that her teacher, Ms. Early, doesn't want her to sing. Sure, she's very loud and tends to come on too strong, but she believes in her singing ability. Instead, Smashie and Dontel are invited to choreograph a series of 1960s go-go dance numbers.

Meantime, they take it on themselves to solve the mystery of the disappearing tubs of Herr Goop, a hair-sculpting gel invented by the mother of their classmate Charlene. If the tubs of goop keep disappearing, the musicale may not happen - because some of the students are only willing to perform if they can have their hair sculpted into fantastic shapes. Putting on their thinking caps (or, in Smashie's case, her investigating suit), the two friends try to work out who had the motive and the opportunity to steal the goop.

With Smashie's record of disrupting the class and letting her imagination run away with her, it's no surprise she soon suspects several unlikely people - including herself! Dontel, being keen for math and science, is more fact-oriented, but both of them are fascinated to realize the tubs of goop are being used to transmit coded messages between the thief and his or her accomplice. The final revelation of who stole the goop, and why, must wait until the final number of the musicale, when the whole class is dancing the "mashed potato" in front of their parents.

Teachers cringe. Parents wince. The principal threatens to fall ill from all the strain. Even some of their third-grade friends become a bit miffed at the pair. But readers of all ages will grin and chuckle at the imaginative antics of these sleuths, and sympathize with their often embarrassing predicaments. Their story is written in clear, kid-friendly language that often sparkles with affectionate humor. Only a few times does its style err on the side of being too specific or too flatly literal for its own good. But the plainness of the style sets off the goofiness of the situation in a fun way. The way the kids use third-grade math lessons to solve puzzles suggests that, if this series continues, it could become an important fixture in real third-grade classrooms.

This sequel to Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11, in which the two friends solved the disappearance of the class pet, is expected to become available in the U.S. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. N. Griffin is a New England-based author. Her other work includes the teen novel The Whole Stupid Way We Are. This review is based on a pre-publication Kindle proof, made available through Netgalley dot com.

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