March 23, 2006


Crime Files: Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries: Body of Evidence. By Jeremy Brown. Scholastic. $5.99.

It’s Happy Bunny Does Su Doku. By Jim Benton and Rafael Sirkis. Scholastic. $4.99.

Guinness World Records: Wild Lives. Scholastic. $4.99.

Guinness World Records: Incredible Collection. Scholastic. $7.99.

     What can you do with a spare four minutes?  One answer: spend it with one of these books.  They’re fine in small doses.  Crime Files: Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries, the first book of a new series, is specifically intended to hit the four-minute mark.  Jeremy Brown creates a “personnel file” of characters distinguishable only by their duties (they don’t have real personalities), then puts them on the scene of various murders and disappearances and asks kids ages 9-12 to solve the mysteries that CSI Wes Burton, head of the group, figures out in about half an instant.  These are challenges in the Encyclopedia Brown mode, with all the information presented in two or three pages and the reader left to decide how to put the clues together.  But the target age range here is older than for the Encyclopedia Brown books, and Crime Files is deadly serious stuff – no humor in the cases, except for an occasional wisecrack by the team member designated to provide wisecracks.  The quality of the mysteries varies: a reader who doesn’t find one to his or her taste can simply spend four minutes with the next one.

     Alternative: spend those four minutes with a su doku puzzle.  Or several.  The It’s Happy Bunny character, a ‘toon with ‘tude, presents 120 of the popular number puzzles in a new book by Jim Benton and Rafael Sirkis.  But don’t look for much of the bunny’s characteristic sarcasm.  Aside from a few Happy Bunny comments at the bottoms of some pages, and two silly HB-style su doku puzzles, this is really just a su doku (also spelled as one word, sudoku) book.  Nothing wrong with that – kids ages 9-12, or people of any age who have been bitten by these numbers-without-math, boxes-within-a-box puzzles, will enjoy these.  Doing too many is a recipe for tedium, but spending four minutes or so at a time with the puzzles seems about right.  Having the answers in the back of the book isn’t a bad thing, either.

     Another way to spend a few minutes is by dipping into the Guinness World Records paperbacks and reading about one or several of the oddities of human nature, animal nature or…well…nature nature.  Wild Lives, for ages 7-13, is a book of “Outrageous Animal & Nature Records” (it says so right on the cover), in which you can learn about the most poisonous common plant (the castor bean), the strongest insect (rhinoceros beetle), the oldest tortoise (Tui Malila, who lived to the age of 188), and the animal with the longest tongue (giant anteater).  Slightly younger kids, ages 5-7, can check out Incredible Collection, a “Top 40” book of records: highest jump by a rabbit, loudest animal sound, tallest living horse, largest airship ever, fastest jet, and so on – all in all, a good mixture of human and animal records.  Any of these books is suitable for a quick dip of fun.  All may wear thin if used for much longer than four minutes, but they’re enjoyable when taken a little bit at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment