The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files: Saxby Smart, Private Detective: Book 1

The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files: Saxby Smart, Private Detective: Book 1

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by Simon Cheshire, R. W. Alley
     
 

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Solve It With Saxby, a new series aimed at unraveling the mystery of getting boys excited about reading.

Saxby Smart is no ordinary ten-year-old. He's the best detective in the world, or at least the best one who also happens to be in elementary school. In this brand new series--with three cases in each book--the reader solves the mystery alongside Saxby,

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Overview

Solve It With Saxby, a new series aimed at unraveling the mystery of getting boys excited about reading.

Saxby Smart is no ordinary ten-year-old. He's the best detective in the world, or at least the best one who also happens to be in elementary school. In this brand new series--with three cases in each book--the reader solves the mystery alongside Saxby, getting peeks at pages of his casebook as the crimes unfold, and searching for clues rather than letting the main character do all the work and have all the fun.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This fast-paced U.S. debut for British author Cheshire launches the Saxby Smart, Private Detective series starring a chipper crackerjack sleuth. The protagonist immediately pulls readers into the action, as Saxby explains, "Unlike some detectives, I don't have a sidekick, so that part I'm leaving up to you-pay attention, I'll ask questions." He involves readers each step of the way, asking about their deductive progress ("Have you figured it out?"), before disclosing his own hunches and findings. Of the three mysteries presented in this volume, the first-involving the connection between a Japanese samurai mask and the bad luck plaguing a friend's father-is the most creatively convoluted. Saxby's resourceful tactics and comedic overstatements will keep kids entertained; his classmates (who play key supporting roles), excerpts from Saxby's notebook and Alley's (Paddington and the Christmas Surprise) cheery b&w line art further enliven these mysteries. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

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Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
This initial volume in the "Saxby Smart: Private Detective" series was first published in Great Britain in 2007 and is now reissued for young American readers with delightful illustrations by the prodigiously talented R.W. Alley. Saxby Smart is a private detective—and a student at St. Egbert's School, with an office in his parents' tool shed; he mentions his parents early on "to let you know that I've got some" and then promises not to discuss them any further. Here, Saxby solves three cases. Each one would be enough in itself for a satisfying chapter book, so it is a bonus to have this three-in-one collection. Jasmine's dad is about to lose his job because his high-tech inventions keep being leaked to their corporate rival: Is he under a curse cast by the mask he purchased in Japan? Class brain Jeremy has his sure-to-be-prize-winning essay ruined by mysterious purple goo on the eve of the Essay Contest: Is low-down rat Harry Lovecroft behind the crime or Jeremy himself? Nasty Mrs. Eileen Pither accuses her niece, Heather, of stealing her antique clasp: How could the clasp have simply disappeared into thin air? Throughout the stories, Saxby pauses frequently to pose questions to the reader, to allow us to join him in his sleuthing, and Cheshire provides just enough clues so that the reader can participate as co-detective in this thoroughly engaging and kid-like collection of cases. Saxby Smart lives up to his name, and Cheshire and Alley make an equally smart team. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 3-5

Ten-year-old Saxby Smart shares his father's love of detective stories, but unlike his father, who is a local bus driver, his love goes beyond reading. With his Crime Headquarters and Thinking Chair in the shed in his backyard, Saxby is ready and willing to take on any mystery that comes his way. When Jasmine Winchester asks for help in proving that the mask her father bought in Japan is not cursed, he finally gets to put his deductive skills to the test. The title contains the accounts of three separate cases, interspersed with black-and-white drawings and excerpts from Saxby's handwritten notebook. Like Donald Sobol's "Encyclopedia Brown" series (Bantam), the books give children the opportunity to solve the mystery or crime along with Saxby. He asks questions of readers, focusing on important clues or deductions and giving them a chance to follow his thought processes before continuing with the story. Young mystery fans will enjoy tagging along with him.-Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews
Saxby Doyle Christie Chandler Ellin Allan Smart wants to be a detective as good as the greats. Even though he's only ten years old, he is observant and adept at using deductive reasoning. In the first of three "case files," the tale of the Ancient Mask, Saxby, with the help of his friend Izzy, discovers that the mask's real curse is a case of competitive sabotage. The second case file is a thinly disguised examination of human motivations and the effect of scare tactics as Saxby uncovers the secret behind the appearance of purple goo on his classmates' projects. In the third mystery, Saxby sets out to find the thief of a valuable coat clasp. His progress is slowed by false suspects, but Saxby learns that it's all really a case of bad attitude. The stories are liberally illustrated with Alley's homey sketches plus representations of Saxby's notebooks. While each short mystery is involving, the distinguishing aspect of this series opener is Saxby's enthusiastic invitations to readers to participate in the sleuthing. A solid successor to Encyclopedia Brown. (Mystery. 7-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429959780
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
04/12/2011
Series:
Saxby Smart, Private Detective , #1
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
1,360,491
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

SIMON CHESHIRE lives in Warwick, England.

R.W. ALLEY is best known for "Paddington Bear" but has published more than 70 books with his wife Zoe. He lives in Barrington, Rhode Island.


Simon Cheshire is the author of numerous books for children, including the second Saxby Smart book The Treasure of Dead Man's Lane and Other Case Files. He lives in Warwick, England.

My parents saved everything, so I know that I began drawing sometime around age two. I haven't paused since. In fact, my drawings now and my drawings then bear a rather strong resemblance. I have gotten slightly better at hands, but horses remain a problem. For an only child, growing up in New York, Texas, South Carolina and finally for most of the time in Annapolis, Maryland, drawing was fine self-entertainment. Then, as now, I have always enjoyed most making pictures that illustrate a story rather than hang on a wall. Today I live in Barrington, Rhode Island with the lovely Zoë B. Alley, author, wife and mother of our two clever children, Cassandra and Max.
I make my pictures in a studio that has a rolling ladder, more books than I can count and many tubes of half-used, rock-hard paint. For the last ten years one of my big projects has been to illustrate new and old stories of Paddington Bear. I have also made pictures for over one hundred other books since I started doing all this right out of college in 1979. I didn't go to art school, but received a BA in Art History from Haverford College and then spent four years as a staff artist at several greeting card companies. Since then, I have spent my working time in my slippers trying to avoid illustrating stories with horses.

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Read an Excerpt


THE CURSE OF THE ANCIENT MASK AND OTHER CASE FILES (Chapter One)

My name is Saxby Smart, and I’m a private detective. I go to St. Egbert’s School, my office is in the toolshed, and these are my case files. Unlike some detectives, I don’t have a sidekick, so that part I’m leaving up to you—pay attention, I’ll ask questions.

My full name is Saxby Doyle Christie Chandler Ellin Allan Smart. Yes, believe it or not, I’m named after all of my dad’s favorite crime writers. The Allan is from Edgar Allan Poe. I mean, even my dad wouldn’t call his kid Poe Smart! Mind you, he called me Saxby Smart…(Saxby isn’t a crime writer, by the way; Saxby is apparently a Ye Olde English name, originally pillaged from the Vikings).

Dad is a big fan of crime novels, and ever since I could read I’ve worked my way through his library of great detective stories. He has an impressive collection. It was all those books that made me want to be a detective in the first place. I love them just as much as he does. Which I guess is another reason I’m beginning my case files here: to show you that I can be just as good a sleuth as Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew.

You might think my dad was a detective himself, but actually he’s a bus driver. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a bus driver. In fact, he loves being a bus driver. And I love him being a bus driver, because it means all the local bus drivers know me, and that’s very useful when you’re a kid detective trying to get around town following clues.

What I mean is that he only reads detective stories. I live them.

My mom? She programs computer games for a living. She works from home and spends all day in her office, which is the closet under the stairs. And that’s all there is to say, really.

The only reason I mention my parents at all is to let you know that I’ve got some. They play no part in any of my great cases, and won’t be appearing much in these pages.

This is the story of my first really interesting case. Up to that point, I’d dealt with quite easy stuff: The Adventure of the Misplaced Action Figure or The Case of the Eaten Cookies are examples from my files that come to mind. But The Curse of the Ancient Mask was something altogether more puzzling. What’s interesting is that I wrapped up the whole case using only a plastic bucket of water.

It started one very hot Saturday, while I was in my Crime Headquarters. I call it my Crime Headquarters, but really it’s a shed. In my backyard. It’s a small yard, and a small shed, and I have to share this shed with the lawnmower and other assorted gardening-type things. I have an old desk in there, and a cabinet full of case notes and papers. Most important of all, I have my Thinking Chair. It’s a battered old leather armchair which used to be red but has worn into a sort of off-brown. I sit in it, and I put my feet up on the desk, and I gaze out the shed’s Plexiglas window at the sky, and I think. Every detective should have a Thinking Chair. I’m sure Philip Marlowe would have had things tied up in the space of a short story if only he’d had a Thinking Chair.

Anyway, on that particular very hot Saturday, I was rearranging some of my notes when there was a knock at the shed door. Its painted wooden sign, the one that says Saxby Smart—Private Detective: KEEP OUT, fell off with a clatter. I keep nailing it up, but I’m no good at that sort of thing, so it keeps falling off again.

The door was opened by a girl from my class at school, Jasmine Winchester. She was red and flustered from a long walk, and she fanned herself with her hands while knocking some of the grassy mud off her shoes.

“Hi, Saxby. Sorry, this dropped off your door,” she said, picking up the sign.

Jasmine is a very tall girl, the sort who overtakes everyone else in height at about the age of three and never lets the rest of us catch up. I’m pretty average-looking myself—average height, average fair hair, average glasses—but Jasmine is one of those people you can always pick out of a crowd. Mostly because she’s poking out of the top of it.

“I know walking along the river looks like a shortcut,” I said, “but you’d get here quicker if you stuck to the path across the park.”

She stopped fanning and stared at me. “How on earth did you know I’d walked by the river?”

She looked impressed when I told her. It was a simple deduction: there was grassy mud on her shoes, she’d obviously walked some distance— because she was hot—and on a hot day, you’d only pick up mud where the ground was still damp.

“How can I help you?” I asked. I offered her my chair, and I perched on the desk (I told you there’s not enough room in that shed…).

“Well,” she said, taking a deep breath, “I can see why everyone at school says you’re a good detective…”

“True.”

“…so I need your help to solve a mystery. My dad is cursed.”

THE CURSE OF THE ANCIENT MASK AND OTHER CASE FILES. Text copyright © 2007 by Simon Cheshire.

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