Elizabeth Eulberg (Text), Matt Robertson (illus.),The Great Shelby Holmes Girl Detective, Bloomsbury Publishing, Feb 2017, 272 pp., $24.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408871478
Shelby Holmes is an unusual child, to say the least. She is a loner and certainly an unconventional nine-year-old. But Shelby possesses a unique talent – an impeccable ability to solve crimes for which she has gained quite a reputation around her New York neighbourhood.
John Watson is a bit older than Shelby. He wants to be a writer and has just moved into the same apartment building with his mum, and without his dad. It’s a very different life for a boy who has moved around all his life as an army kid. This new location is strange and confronting for John in many ways; mostly because it will be a permanent home, something that is completely unfamiliar to him.
When Shelby almost blows up their apartment block at 221B Baker Street – by accident – she and John become acquainted. Shelby shows John around the city blocks of his new neighbourhood – or at least allows him to follow her – introducing him to some of the more unusual characters that make up downtown New York. For John, it is a distraction from unpacking, yet again, and a way to forget that his dad hasn’t been in touch. As time progresses, John become Shelby’s would-be assistant, or at least steadfast companion, as Shelby endeavours to solve the mystery of a missing prize-pooch.
In the footsteps of their namesakes, Holmes and Watson take us on a delightfully funny and quirky adventure. Although the book is titled for Shelby Holmes, it is John Watson who narrates the story; his journal entries describing the ups-and-downs of adapting to life in a big city as he discovers the secrets that enable Shelby to eventually solve the crime.
Eulberg has created a book that is a joy to read. It is well-paced and cleverly written; and the fabulous illustrations add to the text without spoiling any of the details of the mystery. I am really looking forward to reading The Great Shelby Holmes Girl Detective to my grandsons however, I must admit (rather shamefully) that my initial reaction was that it was a book for girls being titled Girl Detective – but I was very wrong. In fact, the gender-neutral name of our young female detective and the narrative in the voice of a young boy, makes it very much a book for both genders who I am sure will engage with all the characters. What a great book for all ages, including oldies like me.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors