3 out of 4 stars
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Serendipity Mystery: Diary of a Snoopy Cat is the seventh standalone book in a series by R.F. Kristi. These books are targeted for readers ages seven through twelve and feature an adorable group of animals led by Inca, a Siberian kitty who is the head of the Inca & Company detective agency. Serendipity Mystery is the story of the detectives’ week-long vacation trip to Sri Lanka. As luck would have it, they arrive in time to help solve a mystery involving the theft of an antique sword and a bag of gold coins from a local museum.
This is a delightful book with brilliant illustrations and plenty of challenging vocabulary for the target audience. The book opens with a colorful family tree that includes Inca and her siblings (fellow felines Cara and Fromage along with hamster Charlotte), Mom, and Aunt Florence. The introduction to the cast of characters continues with a group picture of all the animal friends in the detective agency followed by an individual picture and bio of each animal. The introductions include words such as diminutive, magnificent, brainy, reputed, and stature. The author incorporates these introductory pages in other books in the series and revisiting these words with every book reinforces the vocabulary previously learned. It would be a great addition to include a drawing of a world map showing the characters’ travel route from England to Sri Lanka, adding geography to the learning experience.
The story includes themes such as friendship and teamwork — sharing both in the work and in celebrating success. My favorite part of the book was when Inca got lost and ended up playing with two leopard cubs. When the mother leopard arrived, she angrily glared at Inca, ready to attack. As she and Inca stared at each other, they recognized the similarity in their eyes and understood that something connected them. The mother leopard softened and helped Inca find her way back to her family. It was a touching example of finding a connection with someone even when you’re different.
One thing that annoyed me in this book was that Inca and her fellow pet siblings called their owner “Mom.” While this is cute, it is confusing for two reasons. First, they’re animals and she’s human — the target audience knows the difference. Second, the two fellow pet detectives that are not part of Inca’s family have human owners, not parents. It would be helpful to be consistent for all the animals.
In this story, the detectives discover that four people are involved in the disappearance of the items from the museum. I have included the descriptions of those four people.
These words describe Babu: the village rogue (three times); great, scowling man; running, yanking up his baggy pants; looked like a small, energetic, dark brown walnut; He must be a mechanic. His shirt was covered with oil patches.
The words associated with Madam Pantsuit are: White; well-dressed; diplomat; diplomat lady; very upset.
These are the phrases used to describe Madam Sari: tanned, ebony-skinned lady in a traditional dress called a sari; screeching; threatening to sack them.
Lastly, Mr. Appu is portrayed using the following words: large; dark; great; scowling; very tall; skin was a deep soot black; angry snarl; large hips; hitching up his colorful sarong; angry man; ranting and screaming; he seemed like an angry, nasty character; looked crazed.
These are the only descriptive words associated with these characters. I copied them directly from the book. No other humans were described in the story, including Mom and her male friend Solo. After a week-long trip to Sri Lanka, the pets described all their wonderful new animal friends in detail, but the only native people described were thieves and angry rogues. I appreciate the vivid characterization of the villains and their shenanigans, but it would be beneficial for readers to have a portrayal of a Sri Lankan who wasn’t a crook. (Madam Pantsuit was planning to leave the island on a diplomatic vessel.) Perhaps they could balance their narration by describing a museum worker or a police officer who also had dark skin.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. This is a marvelous book with many learning opportunities. There were very few grammatical errors. The issue with the representation of the Sri Lankan characters was, no doubt, unintentional, but since the pet detectives are a globe-trotting group, the author should address this situation in future books. I deducted one star because of this matter. This book is well-suited for readers eight to ten years old. Younger children would enjoy this book with help from an adult. It may be a bit juvenile for readers in the upper age range of the target audience.
Serendipity Mystery: Diary of a Snoopy Cat
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