Who Took Henry and Mr. Z?
Review by Jennifer Johnson.
A short time later, an intruder entered the school. In the silence of the empty building, running shoes squeaked a steady beat up a flight of stairs. The intruder walked down the unlit second floor hall. On the right-hand side, from four open classroom doors, weak sunlight cut into the gloom. Veering left into a shadowy opening, the intruder pulled the door shut.When Henry and Mr. Z, the class guinea pigs, are stolen, best friends Caroline and Winston decide to find them. Slowly they amass a list of suspects ranging from an older bully to the vice principal himself. A wild nighttime chase through the school and several twists and turns of the plot lead Caroline and Winston to the pigs and the real reason they were stolen.
In his second novel, Dave Glaze, an educator with classroom and consulting experience, mixes pets, classroom dynamics, friendships and a mystery into a satisfying blend. In Caroline and Winston, he has created two close friends who may join the ranks of Cyril and Maggie as a well-loved pair. Caroline is an organizer and achiever who appears to be in charge, but who has her own hidden fear. She is a perfect match for Winston, who can recite a dictionary definition for every occasion, but who can't keep his locker tidy or organize his homework. Using the guinea pigs as a focus for concern works well, as does a sub-plot describing the day by day interactions between the pigs and their various care-givers while hidden. The posturing and menace with which older students present themselves to the younger, is very realistic. In establishing a group of adult characters however, Glaze is inconsistent - the teacher and one parent are caring, believable characters, but Mr. Kroop, the vice principal, emerges as a caricature. Mr. Kroop is not only incompetent, he is threatening to adults and children alike. As a possible suspect in the eyes of the children he is overdrawn and descriptions of his nervous tics are simply irritating.
Janet Wilson's cover illustration is a wonderful asset to the book. Two guinea pigs tucked into a knapsack sit before a very messy locker - which we soon identify as Winston's. The cover illustration wraps around the book, extending the visual appeal. The book has been printed onto bright white pages, with deeply centered chapter headings, and clear dark print. These factors will appeal to young readers and enhance the attractiveness of this animal mystery book. Winston and Caroline have more than just the theft of their classroom pets to deal with in Who Took Henry and Mr. Z? Bullies, lost school funds, and a spooky nighttime chase all enhance an appealing mystery for middle readers.
Jennifer Johnson works as a librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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