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
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.
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 schoolfor 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)