Dog Den Mystery (Jack Russell, Dog Detective) is the first in a new series of early chapter books by Darrel & Sally Odgers. It was originally published by Scholastic Press in Australia in 2005, and was recently republished in America by Kane/Miller. I only noticed one Australian term that may puzzle American kids. There are a couple of references to "biscuits", which in Australia are cookies, not what we think of as biscuits. Otherwise, the text is quite universal.
Jack Russell is, not surprisingly, a Jack Russell terrier. He lives with a man named Sarge, who is a police detective. Apparently, the detecting idea has rubbed off, because Jack sets out to solve a mystery. Jack and Sarge move into a new neighborhood at the start of the book, and Jack is astonished to find that someone is stealing his things (blanket, squeak-toy, etc.). He is able to use his keen sense of smell to track them down, of course, but suspects that his possessions are being used as part of a kidnapping plot.
Jack has some unusual ideas that I think kids will find funny. He makes "nose maps", with which he stores information collected by his nose (e.g. "strange dog sat here"). The nose maps are a hoot. He also has a series of "Jack's Facts", which vary in their accuracy. For example:
"Jack Russells (and other dogs) like to hide underneath blankets.
If we can't see you, you can't see us.
This is a fact."
I found most of the facts entertaining, though I started finding the phrase "This is a fact" annoying fairly quickly. Jack also has his own special vocabulary, with words bolded in the text, and defined at the end of each chapter. For instance: "Terrier-tory: The ground or land claimed by a terrier." That one made me laugh. Jack is a solid character for early grade school kids to enjoy, determined and resourceful, with the interests that one would expect from a small dog.
The black and white illustrations, especially those of the nose maps, are simple and kid-friendly. There are paw-prints sprinkled regularly through the text, and both large and small illustrations. I think that Jack Russell will appeal to kids who love dogs, and kids who love mysteries. The second book in the series, The Phantom Mudder, is now available, with two others expected out in the US in March.
Book: Dog Den Mystery (Jack Russell, Dog Detective)
Author: Darrel & Sally Odgers
Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Original Publication Date: September 2006
Age Range: 6-8
Source of Book: Review copy from Kane/Miller
Other Blog Reviews: bookshelves of doom (Leila noted: "The authors are CLEARLY well-acquainted with the mystifying behavior of these Big-Dogs-in-Little-Dog-bodies")
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.