Saturday, April 14, 2012

Goofballs: The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder by Tony Abbott

A boy who shoves french fries up his nose. Another boy parading in underwear outside wearing his pants on his head like bunny ears. Girls twisting off the top of cheese crackers and poke-a-dotting their faces with the gooey middle. Hmmm. I'm thinking... is this another Captain Underpants? Nope, it's the one and only goofballs. Jeff, Brian, Mara, and Kelly are detectives who have one thing in common - goofiness. When rich boy Randall Crandall loses his beloved pony, the four set-out to solve the mystery.

This series is similar to Nate the Great, Jigsaw Jones, or Cam Jansen. Jeff uses a notebook and words are repeated that help the beginning reader. There are silly puns such as "leaf" me alone or "water" you doing, wordplays such as "keep your plants on" or "The Magic School Bug", and sayings such as "You're a poet and you know it"  or "the butler did it". The language is simple and some of the more difficult words defined.

Early readers are hard to find and good ones are even harder. It is tricky and challenging not to bore the reader when writing with a limited vocabulary and using repetition as a reading aid. Abbott tries something a little different here with all the puns and wordplays that is refreshing. Kids will like the jokes and silliness. What I think is lacking in this book is character depth. I can't really picture Jeff, the narrator, in my head. I don't know how old he is or what he's like. I do know he tries to pay attention to details, because he writes clues in his notebook. But this seems more like a writing technique to help the reader understand the language than get to know Jeff. He only writes facts. Abbott starts out by having Jeff tell us what makes a good private eye: A private eye has to notice everything... A private eye has to ask questions, but this gets dropped by the last third of the book. I think he should have sprinkled more of this throughout the story, such as a private eye has a sense of humor or a private eye must not show what they are thinking. Something to give us more of a feel for the character, Jeff. Or maybe that is too much like Nate the Great who uses the phrase, "I, Nate the Great..."

I love rip-roaring unforgettable characters. Who doesn't? Junie B. Jones is mouthy, self-centered, and mean. Marty Mcguire is a don't-mess-with-me tomboy who has no problem kissing a frog and is NOT gonna wear a dress, not matter what her mom says. The Cat-in-the-Hat is a flamboyant, fun, troublemaker. Ling & Ting are forgetful and hyper. So while this story is fun and silly I didn't find Jeff memorable.  I did find Brian however. Anyone who runs around with underwear on their head is pretty unforgettable. Maybe the problem lies in the first person point of view of Jeff. I am not sure. I will definitely be buying this series for our library.

No Reading Level

3 out of 5 Smileys

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