We’re speaking in code today, prompted by Alec Flint, Super Sleuth.
Anyone remember this recent post I (Jules, that is) wrote? It’s all about what I called EarlyEmergingBegin-
diateReaders, books that fall somewhere between picture books for children and what are often called middle-grade novels. Well, things are comin’ up very EarlyEmergingBeginningInterChapterMediateReaders this week at 7-Imp — at least at the beginning of this week. Today, we’re hosting a book give-away* (which is the translation of our super-sleuth code up there), and tomorrow we’re going to chat with Gail Gauthier, author of two early chapter books herself.
Right. Back to Alec. He is the reason why Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon from Car 54, Where Are You? are pictured above. Alec, a fourth-grade super-sleuth-in-training who makes his series debut in Jill Santopolo’s Alec Flint, Super Sleuth: The Nina, the Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure (Scholastic, July 2008), thinks that these two bungling cops are funny and “liked how Toody and Officer Muldoon got to be detectives together. Like a team. Alec thought, as he had on many occasions before, that it would be nice to find someone to be a detective team with him.” Since Alec so desperately wants to solve crimes, like his cop father sometimes does, and since he’s already got his green sweatshirt with “a hood and a convenient pouch in the front where he could store things”—such his one really good detective pen and a detective notebook—he figures he needs a partner. His talkative neighbor and fellow classmate, Emily Berg, would probably jump at the chance, but he figures she’d make a terrible sleuth. “She wouldn’t be quiet long enough to go on a stake-out or anything.”
Then, Alec realizes that the perfect detective partner may just be in another classmate, Gina Rossi. She’s quick, she’s smart, she’s wicked good at math, and she’s already got her own secret code she uses to communicate with Alec during class. Shoot, he figures she may even make the perfect police car partner. As it turns out, they have not one but TWO crimes to solve, much to their delight: The missing Christopher Columbus exhibit at the local museum and their missing teacher. And first they must determine if these events have anything to do with one another.
Santopolo, HarperCollins editor by day and author/grad student by night, brings us a promising series debut in Alec Flint’s tale. Fans of Encyclopedia Brown, as Kirkus Reviews has already pointed out (”The first in what promises to be a solid middle-grade series in the tradition of Encyclopedia Brown,” they wrote) may be particularly pleased. And, as Santopolo points out over in her recent interview with Betsy Bird, Nate the Great fans (which Jill was herself as a child) might also be keen on this series. The book would be a good choice during elementary history units on Christopher Columbus as well, as an Author’s Note includes historical information on Columbus, “a person who is a hero and a villain at the same time,” as Jill points out in Betsy’s interview when asked why she chose such a controversial historical figure for this opening book in the series.
And, as librarians, we have to add that there is one glorious moment towards the book’s close in which Alec and Gina, while trying to solve a mystery-within-a-mystery, actually find their information in actual books on actual library shelves during actual researching after they find that no accurate information can be found online. This, dear readers, is going to make school librarians all over the country very happy.
More information about Jill’s next book in the series can be found at the aforementioned Fuse interview from last week.
And now, for those interested in winning a free copy of the first title in the Alec Flint series—for either yourself or your school or public library—here’s the information you need to know. And you better be ready to crack some super-sleuth code:
Scholastic is running an Alec Flint, Super Sleuth contest. The first three people to e-mail email@example.com with their mailing address, saying that they read this message on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and correctly cracking the coded message below will receive a free, autographed copy of The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure. (Hint: The key to Alec and Gina’s code is over on www.jillsantopolo.com.)
Here’s the coded message that needs to be cracked: RM ULFIGVVM SFMWIVW MRMVGB GDL, XLOFNYFH HZROVW GSV LXVZM YOFV.
Happy sleuthing and good luck to all! Here, to close us out, are Toody and Muldoon, who just want a little bit of respect and responsibilities a bit more exciting than traffic-watching. Should someone tell Alec that super-sleuthing is not all glory? Ah well. He’ll probably figure it out. Enjoy: