________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 17. . . .January 7, 2011


Dead Frog on the Porch. (A Megabyte Mystery).

Jan Markley.
Vancouver, BC: Gumboot Books, 2009.
249 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-926691-06-0.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Erin Walker.

*** /4



I grabbed Jane's T-shirt as she bolted past me. "Are you nuts? These people could be dangerous. We don't know where they're going or what they're doing. Besides, we're supposed to be going to the mall."

"Forget about the mall. That's kid's stuff. Nancy Drew would follow them," Jane whispered back to me as she ran for the door."

Twelve-year-old twin sisters Cyd (short for Cynthia) and Jane are crazy for mysteries. They've even managed to convince their parents to let them stay home over the summer to study Nancy Drew and work on their mystery novel plots instead of being sent to dreaded Science Camp. The unfortunate and accidental demise of Jane's pet frog, however, sets the plot in motion for a real life mystery of gigantic proportions.

     On their way to the pet store to look for a replacement frog, the twins take a shortcut through the university where their mother works as a geneticist. As they pass by one of the science buildings, they notice something strange and decide to stop for a closer look. A man and woman are seen carrying animals in cages out of the building and loading them into the back of a truck. Their sleuth senses tingling, the girls follow the culprits and overhear a conversation about conducting secret experiments on stolen frogs. .

     The next day, the twins are stunned to learn that the suspected thieves have been invited to dinner. They are Dr. Smalley and Dr. Talbot, their mother's new lab partners. Determined to stop the cruelty against their favourite amphibians, Cyd and Jane resolve to expose Smalley and Talbot and get to the bottom of their evil plot. Soon, the twins are digging up dirt on the scientists' backgrounds, sneaking into their secret warehouse lab, and trying to figure out why they are in cahoots with the owner of a new restaurant in town. But it isn't until they've cracked the case that the twins discover the problem is much larger than they first realized. The giant frogs the scientists have been engineering have huge ecological and ethical consequences.

     Dead Frog on the Porch is Jan Markley's debut novel for young readers, and the first in the "Megabyte Mystery" series featuring twin detectives Cyd and Jane. It is a faced-paced story with plenty of goofy humour and comedic characters. The story is told from Cyd's point of view, and readers will enjoy her sharp wit and highly imaginative expressions. Cyd's voice comes across as modern and genuine, complete with a hint of pre-teen strife.

     This lively mystery-adventure will encourage readers to contemplate serious issues, such as ethics and biodiversity. There's also a strong message of empowerment reinforced. Yes, kids can change the world—one frog at a time! The book includes a handy discussion guide for teachers who might want to incorporate it into language arts or science lessons. Dead Frog on the Porch and future installments in the series may also pique readers' interest in the classic or modern versions of Nancy Drew stories. .


Erin Walker is a Youth Services Librarian with Vaughan Public Libraries in ON

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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