Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Spaghetti Detectives

The Spaghetti Detectives
by Andreas Steinhofel, translated by Chantal Wright
Scholastic (Chicken House), 2011. 167 pgs. Fiction.

The cover art for The Spaghetti Detectives suggests a funny, lighthearted romp, but the text is somewhat more ominous. Rico--"a child proddity"--lives with his Mom in an apartment house filled with interesting and unusual people whose lives and apartments Rico would like to nose around in. Rico manifests autistic tendencies, and doesn't go anywhere much and doesn't have many friends because if he can't go in a straight line away from and back to his home, he gets lost. But one day he meets a boy in the park--Oscar of the giant front teeth and the blue motorcycle helmet. Oscar is a bit quirky, too--he wears the helmet because the world is so filled with dangers--but in a more genius sort of way. The two boys hit it off and arrange for a play date, but Oscar never shows up. Scary thing is, a kidnapper known as Mr. 2000 is in the area. He takes children and demands 2,000 euros for their return--if the money doesn't come, he threatens dire consequences. And Mr. 2000 has Oscar. Can Rico find him in time? The Spaghetti Detectives is reminiscent of a classic German children's book, Emil and the Detectives. The kids are allowed to say what they think--their lives have rough edges and complications which are freely spoken about. The Spaghetti Detectives will not be for everyone but I thought it was a terrific story about a couple of brave, resilient little boys who are both smart in all the most important ways. And, a happy ending.

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