Jo Clarke’s debut for children, Libby and the Parisian Puzzle, is an appealing combination of adventure, detective mystery and boarding school story. It has all the ingredients to encourage young readers to feel part of the fun and the puzzle solving, ensuring that Libby’s first adventure will be a welcome addition to school and home bookshelves. Fully illustrated throughout by Becka Moor this will appeal to the younger middle grade audience and as the first in a series will help set these readers off on the road to reading for pleasure.
Libby loves a good mystery. Inspired by Isobel from her favourite books, Isobel Investigates, she is irrepressibly curious and continually alert to what is is going on around her. As Libby says goodbye to her mum as she sets off by train to live with her Aunt Agatha in her Parisian boarding school she is already appraising her fellow passengers with a beady eye. From the first page onwards Jo Clarke is dropping small clues for her readers to notice and remember.
Aunt Agatha’s boarding school is rather unconventional as it travels the world, moving each term to a new location so that the pupils can experience the local culture, language and traditions as part of their education. The streets of Paris are brought to life throughout the story with mentions of famous monuments, tourists sites and local food. French treats such as hot chocolate, melt in the mouth macarons, crumbly croissants and delicious cheeses are frequently enjoyed by Libby and her friends and made this particular reader quite envious.
The plot whizzes along and Libby soon makes a new friend in fellow new girl Connie and when Aunt Agatha is arrested, accused of a fiendish jewel robbery, the two girls set out to solve the mystery, find the true culprit and save Libby’s aunt. The trail of clues, both real and imaginary, will enthral young readers and provides the opportunity for them to try to use their own detective skills to guess the ending. That sense of involvement will add to the enjoyment of the story for many.
Libby is a delightful character, full of enthusiasm for everything and naturally chatty and inquisitive balanced by Connie’s slightly more reserved personality. I liked Connie who has hidden depths and is both thoughtful and helpful towards her more impetuous friend. I am looking forward to following these two on their next adventure.
The published version will be fully illustrated by Becka Moor and even from those included in my proof copy it is apparent that they have captured the spirit of the story well. From my experience as a school librarian I know that this will broaden the audience adding an appeal to many. Illustrated fiction for this age group is both important and popular and Libby and the Parisian Puzzle is a lovely example of why that is so. As a school librarian Jo Clarke knows which books children enjoy and I bet they will enjoy hers!
I should like to thank the publishers, Firefly Press for my proof copy. Libby and the Parisian Puzzle is published on 3rd March and is available to pre-order/purchase on Bookshop.org.
If young readers enjoy reading about Libby’s adventures I think they may also enjoy the Violet stories by Harriet Whitehorn, also illustrated by Becka Moor, the first of which is Violet and the Pearl of the Orient. You may also like to try Anisha Accidental Detective: School’s Cancelled by Serena Patel illustrated by Emma McCann.
Finally, Firefly Press have created this trailer to give you a taste of what to expect…
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