Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Book 32 - Dead Frog on the Porch
I still remember, with vivid detail, the cover of my favourite Nancy Drew book - the Secret of the Glowing Eye. Crimson cover. Nancy looking kind of scared. The word CYCLOPS popping from the red glow. (It's ok to admit you Googled the title to check my accuracy...) It was the first novel that scared me (discounting Bunnicula, of course, since rabbits aren't 'real' vampires...)
It's been a while since I've read a Nancy Drew, but all of the characters came back to me while I read Jan Markley's middle-grade book Dead Frog on the Porch. Even before I met this Alberta-author, I was desperate to read her novel - isn't that a brilliant title? It just begs to be read!
Her young twin sleuths - Cyd and Jane - emulate their hero perfectly. In fact, I think their unofficial motto might be: What would Nancy do? Snippets of classic Nancy Drew trivia made their way smoothly into the text. I remember Ned, and Bessie, and George, and Nancy's cool car, that has apparently changed with the modern rewrites. Jan took me through a wonderful (and often funny) walk down memory lane.
In this first Megabyte Mystery, Syd and Jane are on a quest to learn why someone is genetically modifying frogs into giants. In the opening scene, Cyd steps on her sister's pet frog, Frogzilla - hence the brilliant title - and the ensuing theme. There's a great chapter where Jan describes the larger-than-normal amphibians that had me rolling with laughter.
Although this is Jan's first book, there's much to admire. The plot is fast-paced and filled with great information for young readers. Jan's also included a great "conversation guide" for teachers who might want to use the book in the classroom. I can see where it fits with many subjects, including science, language arts, and health.
Throughout the book - and I suspect the series - the twins maintain a blog. Many of the posts are written in Haiku, a form of poetry I've never really been able to wrap my head around. It's well done here, and if young readers are paying attention, these blog posts contain clues to the mystery. (And yeah, I figured it out fast...but I'm a *little* older than her ideal reader.)
Although the characterization was fairly light in this first book, I'm eager to get to know these twins better throughout the series. She's completed her second novel, Dead Bird Through the Cat Door and is already working on her third. Jan is known to collect all things frog, hang out (a lot) in her writing cave, and compose witty blog posts at www.janmarkley.blogspot.com. I encourage you to check her out.
The Book in My Bag Today: Anywhere She Runs, Debra Webb