I happened to be in Barnes & Noble some months ago, and as I was perusing the children's books, looking for any new mystery series, I happened to glance through the Chapter Books area, looking to see if they had the new Nancy Drew Clue Book series. As I was looking over the shelves, I saw some titles that jumped out at me. Mystery at the Coral Reef. Mystery of the Lion's Tail. Mystery in the Forbidden City. Of course, loving this throwback to the old days of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew titles, I pulled out some of the books and gave them a quick flip-through.
The series, "Greetings from Somewhere," is about twins, Ethan and Ella Briar, whose parents take them traveling around the world. Everywhere they go, the twins stumble upon a mystery they must solve. Definitely a concept for a great mystery series, so, being the adventurous reader that I am, I picked up the few titles they had there (and ordered the rest from Amazon). And after months of sitting on my shelves, I've finally started to read the series, beginning, of course, with the first book.
Now, first off, I have to say - this is definitely a book for beginning readers. At 118 pages (which, sadly, is pretty close to the same length as the Hardy Boys books these days), the font is quite large, and there are numerous internal illustrations, pretty much on every other page. Thus, it makes for a short story and a quick read. The sentences are short, and the vocabulary are easy-to-read words that would be easily understood by 6 to 9 year olds. Obviously, this ended up only taking me about 15 minutes to read - yet, surprisingly enough, it was a cute little story, and I can imagine that had this series been around back when I was in first or second grade, I would have enjoyed it.
This first story is relatively tame - Ethan and Ella are told by their parents that their mother has accepted a new position at the newspaper where she works - she is going to be a travel writer, meaning the family will be traveling the globe as Mrs. Briar writes her stories about the various countries and places. The twins are unhappy at first, not wanting to leave their friends and hometown - but after a visit from their grandfather, who gives them each a gift, they begin to warm to the idea.
The mystery focuses on a gold coin that Ethan is given by his grandfather. They morning they are ready to leave, Ethan finds that he has lost his coin. Ella (who enjoys writing mystery stories herself - her latest one is "The Case of the Missing Diamond" [p 24]) convinces her brother that they can play detective and solve this mystery of the missing coin. They set off through town to retrace their steps from the previous day to find the coin. At the bookstore, when they mention what they are doing, the owner comments, "A mystery? You mean like something from a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys story?" [p 76]. It seems any more, you can't read any mystery without some sort of reference to Nancy Drew.
Ultimately, they find the coin and the mystery is solved. It's a cute story, and for parents whose children are just reaching the stage where they can read, I would highly recommend this series, based on this first book alone.
RATING: 8 globe-trotting detectives out of 10 for good clean family fun and easy reading!