CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 20 . . . .May 25, 2007
Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook. Volume 2.
Liam O'Donnell. Illustrated by Michael Cho.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Publishing, 2007.
94 pp., pbk., $11.95.
Mystery games-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery comic books, strips, etc.-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
Tony often forgets that hockey is a team sport. His ego is the size of an NHL player's paycheque. But the guy looked desperate, and so did Alison. I guess the thought of Tony missing out on the playoff game was too much for her.
As his name suggests, if you have a mystery that you want to find the answer to, Max Finder is the boy for you. Max's keen sense of justice and his incredible eye for detail will not be denied. Together with his friend, Alison Santas, the two form a dynamic duo as unstoppable as Batman and Robin. While Max and Alison do not don capes or drive fast cars, they invariably get to the bottom of a case even, as in "The Case of the Summer Sinker," if the mystery has lain unsolved for fifty-odd years. Max and Alison enjoy the things that other kids do in their home town of Whispering Meadows—playing soccer, watching hockey, hiking in the woods, spending time at a family summer cottage, reading manga comics—but, above all else, they love their role as amateur detectives.
In Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, Volume 2, there are 10 four- or six-page full-colour comic strip/graphic novel style mysteries. In addition, this primary content is supplemented with a variety of puzzles and challenges such as codes to crack (including Morse code messages), mathematics-based word problems, rebus word puzzles, and a true or false forensics quiz.
Each of the graphic mystery stories originally appeared in OWL Magazine, but this compilation provides opportunity for new or renewed exposure to the creative talents of Liam O'Donnell and the illustrator, Michael Cho. In order to crack the cases, readers need to be observant and thoughtful and to have an eye for detail. In the absence of such qualities, however, I think that Max Finder Mystery may be an excellent tool to help young readers develop such traits.
The answers and detailed explanations to the graphic mysteries and the additional problems are all found toward the back of the book. As the book's introductory comments state, however, "real detectives never peek." There is a lot of fun to be had in trying to solve the mysteries and figure out the answer to each problem. At the same time, it is comforting to know that one can always turn to the back to confirm one's (hopefully correct) conclusions.
Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, Volume 2 contains enough intrigue, appeal, relevance, mystery, challenge, and fun to be the ideal travel companion for preteens setting out on a long summer road trip.
Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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