02 October 2009

Hedgeburners: an A-Z PI mystery

by Goldie Alexander and illustrated by Marjory Gardner

Interactive Publications, Young Reader, Paperback, rrp $16.95

Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

This is another title from IP Kidz, the newest imprint of Interactive Publications dedicated to themes that guide and teach young readers. This is the first of a series featuring the characters, Anna and Zach, Private Eyes, with Zach as narrator. It is based on actual crimes committed by youngsters.

Being a PI demands a lot of time as the youngsters soon discover. Anna is smart and conscientious, disciplined and organised. Zach is the opposite. He juggles caring for his numerous pets with homework and running around looking for clues with Anna. He also has a habit of associating everyone he meets with the animal they resemble, and that’s how he views them after the first meeting.

After someone sets fire to an aged but thriving hedge next door to Anna’s house, the A-Z PIs begin searching for clues. Anna’s list of suspects in her computer file grows but they have no solid proof. The third burnt hedge which also threatens human lives brings the two closer to the culprits after a long investigation and a few lucky breaks.

Zach’s friend Brett who works for the newspaper somehow becomes a suspect. When Brett goes missing, the two PIs have more on their hands than they expected. Zach is losing sleep following suspects at night. His homework is suffering. His father is stressed about his failing business.

But the PIs are getting closer. There is more involved here than just hedge burning. Some of their school mates are shop-lifting, coercing or bullying their peers into take part in illegal, careless and dangerous acts.

The theme of firebugs is just the springboard for the many issues covered here. The book teaches awareness and responsible behaviour and includes the effect adult actions and problems have on children and vice-versa. It also teaches that one should never assume anything, for sometimes things appear to be one way, but turn out to be something entirely different.

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