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Capture the Flag
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Kate Messner


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Saxby Smart in The Curse of the Ancient Mask (series #1) PDF Print E-mail













What You Need to Know:
• Saxby Smart uses technology, the help of his close friends and his own, impressive analytical skills to solve crimes
  in his neighborhood.
• The three chapters have some of the same characters but stand on their own and can be read separately.
• The book was originally published in England, the home country of the author.
• Look for Saxby Smart's Detective Handbook just published in September 2010.
• This is the first book in the series.
• Click through to Simon Cheshire to learn more about him and why he thinks that reading is cool.
• Click here for a complete list of the Saxby Smart series.
Sweet Series Background:
Saxby Smart is a young Private Detective. His dad, a bus driver, is a big fan of crime novels and his mom programs computer games, but other than a brief mention of them, they don’t have a big role in the story. Saxby is pretty independent and appears to navigate his world without much input from his parents. He was inspired by his dad’s extensive library of great detective stories. Working out of a tool shed, in his backyard, he seems to have developed a nice little business helping out neighborhood kids and their families.
Sweet Book Summary:
Saxby Smart is one smart Private Detective. I mean kid. Actually, sometimes he seems a little more like an adult than a kid. It’s Saxby to the rescue when neighborhood problems arise. They’re big problems too – a dad could lose his job, a classmate could be cheating and a friend is being accused of a crime. So, how does he do it? He’s great at deductive reasoning, plus he’s detail-oriented and observant. He also organizes his thoughts really well and has a great system to manage the problem solving process. Those are some skills I’d like my kids to emulate! Saxby works alone but definitely relies on his two best friends (Izzy and Muddy) for help. It is nice to see the comfortable relationship between boys and girls in this story. His two friends each help Saxby in their own way and he appreciates their individual skills and expertise. The story feels very current as they use up-to-date technology like cell phones, the Internet and MP3 players. From the way he thinks, the freedom he has and the technology he uses, Saxby does seem a bit older than he looks in the illustrations, although his actual age is never revealed. Saxby addresses the reader directly, asking them to use his clues to try to solve each mystery themselves, before he gives it away. The answers don’t seem that obvious, so kids will enjoy Saxby’s challenge to try to figure things out on their own. Young readers will get breaks from straight text with notebook-style pages, lists, charts, and, of course, the amusing illustrations.

Saxby solves three unrelated cases in this book, which is the first in the series. First, he helps a girl from school, Jasmine, whose father thinks he’s been cursed by an ancient mask that he bought on a business trip in Japan. Jasmine’s dad works for an electronics company and his ideas keep falling into the hands of an industry rival. He’s worried he’s going to lose his job. Is he cursed or is this corporate espionage? In the second case file, someone at school has been destroying essays for a school contest, and Saxby must find the culprit. Lastly, a girl from school requests his help to prove her innocence, in a case of missing jewelry, before her persnickety great-aunt goes to the police. You can see that Saxby’s cases have some serious consequences. At the end of each case, he presents his findings to an audience, including adults, and offers a confident explanation as to how he figured out the mystery – which they could not. Saxby shows kids how powerful they can be if they use some ingenuity.
Author: Simon Cheshire Illustrator: R.W. Alley Published: 2009, 176 pages
Themes: Community, Detective Stories, Friendship, Mystery, School, Teamwork
Sweet Discussion Questions:
• Could Saxby crack these cases on his own or does he need his friends?
• Are there any mysteries in your neighborhood that you’d like to solve?
• Can kids in real life, do the things that Saxby does? Would adults get angry with them?
• Is Saxby a good friend?
• What more can you learn about the world around you by being more observant?
• Why is Saxby so good at solving crimes?
• How do these kids seem to figure things out that the adults cannot?
If You Liked This Book, Try:
Masters of Disaster, Gary Paulsen
Melonhead, Katy Kelly
Cam Jansen, David A. Adler
Mighty Monty, Johanna Hurwitz
This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
Support Independent Book Shops: Click Here to Buy this Book on IndieBound
 

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