Monday, July 12, 2010

Elvis and Olive Super Detectives

Elvis and Olive Super Detectives by Stephanie Watson was an ARC I received at Cover to Cover earlier this summer. When I was younger I loved reading mysteries so I was intrigued with the title and the cover. Sometimes our students pick books by titles and covers too. The cover is a bit misleading. It shows the back side of two children, one with long hair and one with short hair and the one with short hair is in bib overalls. Yes, I did think it was going to be a book about a boy, Elvis and a girl Olive but it's not! It's a friendship about Natalie and Annie, two girls. See detectives need to have undercover names. I found myself stopping to think about which character was which, who was doing what so I think students, third graders might need some support to get started.

Natalie is hoping, trying and dreaming to become the Student Council Secretary. Part of her duties would be to run the school store and you can tell by the description of scents and texture she is passionate about this position. Part of her campaign is to do worthy community service. Annie brainstorms a detective agency to help neighbors with missing items. This confident pair begin and have some small success with normal missing items that were misplaced.

Along Natalie and Annie's journey to solve mysteries, we meet Mrs. Dimesworth who once was a famous actress for an old TV series. She provides the girls with some detective tips. We meet Steven who is also running for Student Council Secretary. Steven's little brother tends to be the neighborhood "officer" handing out his own version of violation tickets for things he thinks are being violated. There are students at school, on the bus and a few other neighbors but no one more important than Mr. and Mrs. Warsaw.
The Warsaws live down the street from the two girls. Mrs. Warsaw forgets. Mrs. Warsaw tells stories that aren't current. Mrs. Warsaw talks about things that appear to not be true at all. For example, Zadie Zeolite is a woman she speaks of in her closet and mother would be mad if she knew she was there. Natalie and Annie or should I say Elvis and Olive begin to think there is something to her story and wonder if they can help her. They use their detective skills to discover Zadie Zeolite was a comic, taken out of the library system by Mrs. Warsaw's mother. They also uncover, Mrs. Warsaw lived in a similar house on the same street that is abandoned and ready to be condemned. With a similar floor plan, they find a collection of Zadie Zeolite comics that are very valuable, in the closet. This discovery helps the Warsaws keep their current home and get Mrs. Warsaw some expensive medication she needs to help with her memory. What I loved about this journey the girls took was they validated Mrs. Warsaw's story, made a story a memory and made a difference.
Annie has her own personal story line for readers to follow as she is living in a foster care situation, hoping her mother will return. Her story brings sadness and joy, complimenting the humor and reality also found within this text.

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