Book Review, Illustrated Fiction

The Brian Brackbrick Mysteries by G.R. Dix

The Brian Brackbrick books are a series of fun mystery stories for children age 5-8. Centred around the highly intelligent child detective Brian Brackbrick, readers are able to work with the characters to find clues, research answers and solve the case. At the end of each book, one aspect of the mystery is left unanswered. This cliff-hanger ending means readers can come back to the next book ready to pick up where they left off. Each new book is like watching the next episode in a favourite television show. Already confident with the characters, settings and problems to be solved, children can jump right into the fun. Engaging illustrations used to introduce the characters draw children into the stories and present the mystery of “Who is Mr Sparker?” right from the start.

In the first book, Brian Brackbrick and the Hazard of Harry Hatman, readers are taken from the predictability of life in an ordinary house in an ordinary town right into a crazy idea, dangerous plan or a deadly scheme. The characters speak with the excitement and exaggeration of ordinary children when they are excited – everything is “the best in the whole world” and emphasised with bold text. Lovely repetition and alliteration makes the language fun to read while character names to match people’s jobs brings an extra dimension to the story. Of course, the library is the most wonderful place in town with Dr. Harley Letters, Doctor of Books and Reading, on hand to help in any way he can. With an evil villain, a hypnosis-inducing hat and a missing person, Brian Brackbrick and his best friend, George Bum, must hurry to solve the case!

After an effective recap, readers are plunged straight into the mystery of book two, Brian Brackbrick and the Mystery of Mrs Blumenhole.  With fun details like mum’s bad singing, running out of names for George’s siblings and a huge, smelly dog called Slobberchops, readers find themselves in a familiar world not unlike their own. But before too long, they are surrounded by weird and wonderful exotic plants, herbal cupcakes and scary scorpions! Brian and George become heroes as they demonstrate the value of being clever, having a good think and using the library to help them find the answers.

Book three continues the mystery and fun with Brian Brackbrick and the Scowl of the Scorpion. In this story, readers can enjoy the surprising twist and turns as they come closer and closer to the villain. Fantastic descriptions, carefully crafted clues and opportunities to link everything together allow children to be a part of the mystery and see if they can work it out before Brian and George find the answer!

These books are very accessible with child-friendly language and manageable chapters. Children will gain confidence and a sense of achievement as they make their way through the stories. The variety of text styles (signs, posters, labels) and illustrations to introduce the key characters, settings and objects draw readers in. There is great potential to use these stories in the classroom as a straightforward model of a mystery story: a problem, suspects, clues, thinking it through, solving the mystery and even a medal from the mayor at the end. This series is fun while being easy to read and digest. Children will devour them and look forward to the next book with eager anticipation. In the meantime, there’s a message from Brian Brackbrick himself and an opportunity to contact him via email or Twitter – keeping the reader, character, author connection alive.

You can contact Brian Brackbrick or author G.R. Dix at brianbrackbrick@gmail.com, on Twitter: @BrianBrackbrick or on Facebook: Brian Brackbrick.

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

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