Title: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery
Author: Renée Treml
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: April 2019
Synopsis: A hilariously funny, action-packed mystery, starring the intrepid Sherlock Bones.
‘Hi there, I’m Sherlock Bones.
Who is Sherlock Bones, you ask? Well, I don’t like to brag, but my trusty side-kick Watts says I’m the greatest detective in our whole museum.
Don’t you, Watts?
You might not be able to hear Watts, because she’s technically a stuffed parrot, but I always know what she’s thinking.
And right now she’s thinking: Can we solve the mystery of the missing Blue Diamond and save the Museum of Natural History, before it’s too late?
Sherlock Bones is a skeleton – a frogmouth skeleton on exhibition in the natural museum in Sydney, and he has a trusty sidekick – Watts. But Watts is a stuffed parrot, and the people who work at the museum are unaware that Sherlock Bones moves around. When the Blue Diamond goes missing, Sherlock Bones investigates – along with Watts and their new friend, Grace – a raccoon who has stowed away and found herself in the museum, helping look for the diamond. Will Sherlock Bones and his companions find the diamond, and is the thief closer than they thought?
Told in a graphic novel style, the clues are dropped cleverly throughout as we follow the trail to find out what has happened to the diamond. It is a light-hearted mystery for kids aged six to nine, and books like these can grow their confidence in reading before they move onto short chapter books and novels for middle grade readers. Renée wrote and illustrated this book – and it is exquisitely and perfectly done. As readers, even though the illustrations are in black and white, they are still filled with fun and help to tell the story along with the words.
As someone who hasn’t read many graphic novels before, it was an adjustment, but it didn’t take long, even though I had to check some panels a few times to make sure I knew what I had read or seen was right. At times, I flicked back a few pages as I wondered if I had missed something – if I had, it only took me a few minutes to get back into the groove. The story was really well told and plotted, and I thoroughly enjoyed this new experience. It might take some adjustment to a new format but I think a book like this is a really good place to start, as whilst the story is simple, it still has the same complexities we might expect from a novel, these just come in a visual format.
It was also a great take on the traditional Sherlock Holmes narrative, and a good way to get kids into a new genre, style and way of reading.
Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery is also on the shortlist for the Readings Children’s Book Prize for this year. Judging for this prize ends on the 30th of April.