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The Mystery of Mr. Nice (Chet Gecko Series)

The Mystery of Mr. Nice (Chet Gecko Series)

4.2 8
by Bruce Hale

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Most folks know him as the best lizard detective at Emerson Hicky Elementary, but it's not all knuckles and know-how with Chet Gecko. He's also got his artistic side.
If it wasn't for his art, he might never have been sent to Principal Zero's office, where he stumbled onto the mystery of Mr. Nice. Because whatever you can say about Principal Zero, one thing is


Most folks know him as the best lizard detective at Emerson Hicky Elementary, but it's not all knuckles and know-how with Chet Gecko. He's also got his artistic side.
If it wasn't for his art, he might never have been sent to Principal Zero's office, where he stumbled onto the mystery of Mr. Nice. Because whatever you can say about Principal Zero, one thing is certain: He is not nice. Until now.
Chet knows something is wrong with this picture, and he's just the gecko to solve this mystery. After all, who do you think put the art in smart aleck?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Any book that begins, "History class crept by like a slug on ice," is bound to appeal to kids. This addition to the "Chet Gecko Mystery" series is no exception. When Chet, the best lizard detective at Emerson Hicky Elementary School, tries to learn why Principal Zero is suddenly nice, he discovers a dastardly plot afoot. Using all the swagger and lingo of a Sam Spade wanna-be, Chet and his mockingbird assistant, Natalie Attired, deliver intrigue and hilarity. Some of the humor may be too sophisticated for young readers ("art gecko" for instance), but there are dozens of puns and jokes, both corny and clever, that they will get. The similes are fresh and kid-funny--Chet's heart beating "like a hyperactive octopus with a drum set," or faces turning "as purple as a grape stomper's underwear." They are so numerous, however, that the reader begins to suffer from overkill, until he realizes that a-simile-a-second is simply how Chet talks. There are a few stretches of credibility in the plot, but they hardly matter. The steady humor, eye-catching illustrations, and crazy cast of characters (including a wombat, a tattooed armadillo, and a brass knuckle-carrying hamster) keep this chapter book entertaining. 2000, Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12, $14.00. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Humor is the outstanding element of this fast-paced mystery set in an elementary school. Chet Gecko is a sleuth who also deems himself to be an artist. He is caught drawing in class and is sent to the principal's office for discipline. However, something is strange about Mr. Zero's behavior. Chet and his sidekick Natalie, a mockingbird, soon discover that he is an impostor who is plotting to turn Emerson Hicky Elementary into a vocational school for crime. Ultimately, the young detective and his friends save the day. Told from Chet's point of view, the story is filled with corny jokes, clever wordplay, and amusing asides. The action keeps on moving and there is lots of suspense. The droll, black-and-white cartoon drawings add to the fun. A good choice for fans of gumshoe adventures.- Sharon McNeil, Los Angeles County Office of Education Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Green-scaled gumshoe Chet Gecko hits his stride in this hard-boiled follow-up to The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse (p. 475). What with a plug-ugly new janitor, new Assistant Principal Clint Squint's "PEN [sic] STATE" tattoo and a formerly sourpuss Principal Zero suddenly turned eerily sweet-tempered, there is definitely something rotten at Emerson Hickey Elementary School. Leave it to Chet, his mockingbird sidekick Natalie Attired, and little Popper, a tree frog schoolmate on hyperdrive, to dig up the dirt: the real Principal Zero has been kidnapped by thugs who plan to smooth-talk the PTA into turning Emerson Hickey into a vocational school—for young crooks. Hale throws in wisecracks by the handful, terrible jokes ("Why was the tuna so sad when he lost his wife? He lobster and couldn't flounder! Ha ha!"), and daffy clues, tucks in an occasional broadly comic pen-and-ink sketch of his trenchcoat-clad shamus and associates, and brings the pot, er, plot, to a boil at a raucous PTA meeting that sees the crooks nabbed in the nick. Hold on to your fedoras: this gecko's going places. (Fiction. 8-10)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Chet Gecko Series , #2
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
450L (what's this?)
File size:
29 MB
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Wombat Kisses

It was a hot, slow day. History class crept by like a slug on ice. Mr. Ratnose stood at the blackboard, trying to make some history of his own as Most Boring Teacher Ever. Half the class was asleep, and the other half was trying to look like they weren’t.

Me, I was watching Mr. Ratnose’s long whiskers droop like the seat of a kindergartner’s pj’s.

Suddenly, inspiration struck.

I whipped out a sheet of paper and a pen. Behind the cover of my open history book, I began a truly great cartoon. It started with Mr. Ratnose, and for the sake of Art, I made his nose four times the size it usually is.

And that’s pretty big.

Then I pooched out his lips. With great detail, I drew in Marge Supial, the school nurse, puckering up for the mother of all kisses.

Before I’d even finished, I heard a smothered giggle. I glanced over at Bo Newt.

"Eeew, wombat kisses!" he whispered.

He giggled some more. Shirley Chameleon scooted her desk closer, trying to see what all the fuss was about.

"Shhh," I said. An artist must have silence. I bent to my work. I had just labeled the characters in my latest masterpiece, when IT fell on me.

The teacher’s shadow.

"What do you call this?" said Mr. Ratnose.

"Um . . . art gecko?" I said.

"And who is that supposed to be?" He pointed a clawed finger at the big-nosed rat.

Duh. It was obviously him. But I couldn’t say that.

"Um, it’s an Afro-Cubist rendering of a rare lumpenhuffer in a Post Toasties–influenced style," I said. That’s the kind of stuff I read in my parents’ art books at home. No fooling.

"It looks like me kissing a wombat," said Mr. Ratnose. He bared his long front teeth.

The kids sitting near me were trying so hard not to crack up, they were snorting like pigs at a mud festival. Bo Newt’s eyes bulged like two pumped-up grapefruit. He clapped a hand over his mouth.

My lip twitched into a semi-smirk. I couldn’t help it.

"You think that’s funny?" said Mr. Ratnose.

"No, I think it’s art," I said.

My public agreed. I could tell because smothered laughter was turning their faces as purple as a grape-stomper’s socks.

Mr. Ratnose frowned. His ears quivered. "Well, I think it’s awful," he said, grabbing my drawing. "It shows a lack of respect."

Everybody’s an art critic.

Mr. Ratnose scribbled on his pink pad. He tore off the sheet and thrust it at me. Then he ripped my sketch in half.

Ouch. That hurt. But every great artist suffers insults in his time. I knew that future art lovers would recognize my genius.

"Chet Gecko," said Mr. Ratnose, "go straight to the principal’s office, and take this–this thing." He pointed at my mangled artwork. "Mr. Zero will deal with you!"

He stalked back to the front of the room, hairless tail dragging behind him.

I sighed and got up to go. An artist’s life is not an easy one. That’s why I usually stick with detecting. People might make fun of my detective work, but they can’t tear it up.

As I walked down the aisle, a bird’s voice chirped, "Mr. Ratnose, Chet’s not taking the drawing with him."

I glanced over at her. Cassandra the Stool Pigeon. It figured.

I went back and picked up my drawing, then trudged out the door and down the hall.

Some days are like that. They begin with a punch to the gut or a mud pie in the kisser. You figure when a day starts like that, things can’t get much worse.

But then, somehow or other, they do.


Copyright © 2000 by Bruce Hale

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


Meet the Author

BRUCE HALE is the author of five picture books as well as the Chet Gecko mysteries. A popular speaker, teacher, and storyteller for children and adults, he was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1998 to teach storytelling and to study folklore in Thailand. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

BRUCE HALE is the author of Snoring Beauty, illustrated by Howard Fine, as well as the fifteen Chet Gecko mysteries. A popular speaker, teacher, and storyteller for children and adults, he lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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The Mystery of Mr. Nice (Chet Gecko Series) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It will keep you on your toes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zack Chayet More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mystery of Mr. Nice, by Bruce Hale, is about a kid named Chet Gecko who wants to find out why the mean Principal, Mr. Zero, became so nice. Chet tries his best to solve this mystery. He asks almost everybody he knows in Emerson Hicky Elementary if they know what¿s wrong with Mr. Zero. Until one day, he figures out it was really Mr. Zero after all not a fake. Chet Gecko is a student at Emerson Hicky Elementary School and loves to solve mysteries. Natalie is also a good mystery solver and Chet Gecko¿s mystery assistant. Mr. Ratnose is Chet Gecko¿s nice teacher, but if you get on his bad side, ooh I feel bad for you. The connection I have to the book is that I love to solve mysteries of my lost football cards. The theme of this story is to never go to Emerson Hicky Elementary with a PROBLEM because you¿ll always get caught. Read this book and you will sink right into the pages. I recommend this book for all those mystery lovers because there is a lot of mystery solving of why Mr. Zero was so nice.

By: Trevaughn
Guest More than 1 year ago
Soemthing is wrong with Principal Zero.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book because it is a mystery. I like mystery books because you can't put them down and they're really exciting. Chet Gecko, the detective, and his pal Natalie have noticed some really weird things at the school lately. They figured out that four people were trying to turn the school into a crime school. Knuckles[the fake principle], Ms. Darkwing, Mr. Squint and Guido were the suspects. Chet found the real principal locked up in a room with tape on his mouth and string holding him tight. Chet freed Mr. Zero and ran to the meeting at the school. When they got there, they figured out that the criminals were trying to trick everyone that they were going to change the school into a vocational school. Chet told everyone that they were going to change it into a crime school and everyone gasped. Mr. Zero, the principal, called the police while Chet was giving his speech. The police arrested the criminals and they were never seen again. If you like comedy mysteries with a lot of adventure you will love this book. Other books written by Bruce Hale: The Big Nap and The Clever Ophihi
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book because it was not only interesting but funny too.