Friday, July 29, 2016

The Great Mouse Detective: Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone

Oh, I am so torn on this book. It's a new edition of a classic set of stories, the books that inspired the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective. I read and loved them when I was a kid and now they're back again! But will modern kids enjoy them?

Eve Titus wrote these books to introduce children to the great detective himself, and Basil is clearly modeled on Sherlock Holmes - although he's a kinder and more friendly version. Basil has learned his craft at the feet of the great master himself, having moved himself, Dr. Dawson, and their entire town into the basement of Baker Street.

When white mouse twins Angela and Agatha are kidnapped, Basil puts to use all the skills and methods he's learned from the great Holmes - but will it be enough to save them from the dastardly plot of the Terrible Three?

I was very happy that the publisher retained Galdone's original illustrations. The delightful black and white portraits show a miniature world populated by mice in the style of Holmes' Victorian time period. The flavor of the original language of Doyle's mysteries is woven throughout the stories in phrases like "Since he is a stay-at-home type, who has probably never been out of Mousecliffe, I deduced that he must depend upon the exploits of others for excitement. I won his good will with my imaginary adventures of the stout ship Pied Piper."

On the one hand, these are classic, sweet adventures full of delightful turns of phrase and adorable mice. On the other hand, they retain all their original Victorian flavor - including remarks that are no longer palatable or appropriate. References to "natives" etc. In addition, while the book is of beginning chapter length, the vocabulary is more advanced.

Verdict: I would put these into my unique category of "cozy read-alouds for young children." I have quite a few parents who enjoy reading chapter books aloud to their children and that is really the most suitable audience for these titles. The cozy nature of the stories makes them a good read-aloud without challenging children with the vocabulary and parents can skip over or discuss the outdated language as they feel is suitable for their children. I will admit that a certain amount of nostalgia plays a part in my decision, but as I do have quite a large audience for this genre I think I'm justified in adding it to the library.

ISBN: 9781481464802; Hardcover edition published May 2016 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster (paperback edition also available); ARC provided by publisher

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