Book: Snoop Troop: It Came from Beneath the Playground
Author: Kirk Scroggs
Age Range: 7-10
It Came from Beneath the Playground is the first book in the Snoop Troop series of mysteries for early elementary school kids. I found it to be highly entertaining, with kid-friendly humor and a non-obvious mystery. When sources of fun (including a local merry-go-round and the school playground) start disappearing, a mystery-obsessed girl named Logan Lang races to help. In the face of inept adult investigators, Logan reluctantly joins forces with a police-obsessed boy named Gustavo Muchomacho (previously her "arch-nuisance"). The two each bring complementary mystery-solving skills to the table, and their differences lend humor along the way.
It Came from Beneath the Playground is a heavily illustrated chapter book, with multiple pictures on every page, much of the information conveyed in text bubbles, and seek-and-find type activities throughout. There are also bonus puzzles and visual games included at the end of the book. It reads like a graphic novel, but does include some narrative text, too. The narrator talks directly to Logan from time to time, and readers are directly encouraged to find clues along the way.
Despite the many illustrations, I would place It Came from Beneath the Playground as more a book for second graders and up than for first graders. It's relatively long, and many of the illustrations are small and detailed. Readers hoping to solve the mystery will need to keep track of hints from different parts of the book. There are also some strong vocabulary words, as well as puns that I don't think the newest readers will get. (e.g. an amusement park owner named "Izzy Hurling"). And there are ransom notes in the form of word jumbles.
But for kids who are ready for it, It Came from Beneath the Playground is a lot of fun. I laughed out loud several times while reading it. Like this:
Narrator: "That's fourth-grader Logan Lang sitting in the dark, dank library, just like she does every day after school, surrounded by her friends...
And when I say "friends," I mean mystery books, crime novels, and twisted tales of suspense...
They're all she has in this cold, lonely world."
Logan (via text bubble): "Okay, I think they get it. I'm a little too into mystery books."
Police detective (via text bubble, at the amusement park crime scene): "You again? I've warned you about trespassing on crime scenes. This place is crawling with stuffed animals, candy, and arcade games--it's no place for a kid!"
Narrator: "Gustavo jumps onto one end of the seesaw to save Bobby Bing, but for some reason, Bobby goes sailing into the air without even saying good-bye."
Gustavo (via text bubble): "Wait! Don't go. I'm trying to rescue you!"
Gustavo is not too bright, but he does mean well. He has a bunch of gadget-enhanced mustaches, which are pretty funny. Logan has a combination police scanner/lunchbox. Her office is a retired ice cream truck.
Snoop Scoop: It Came from Beneath the Playground is perfect for kids who enjoy the Lunch Lady series and are ready for something a little bit more challenging. It's highly interactive and dynamic, and a great introduction to how to solve mysteries. Recommended for library or home purchase, with a slight plus for home purchase because kids may want to write in the puzzle and game section at the end.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the author (via my friend Miles)
© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).