Jen Storer (text), Claire Robertson (illus), Hoodwinked! (Truly Tan #5), ABC Books/HarperCollins, 1 May 2016, 272pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780733334115
You may have met Tan and her BFF Gloria before, when they first appeared in Truly Tan. They have also featured in three other books, in which they have been Jinxed!, Spooked! and Freaked! Tan and Gloria have a detective agency. They are constantly alert to anything even slightly suspicious, and find that Grade four, dominated by Miss Dragone, the aptly named teacher, has mysteries galore. For instance, Verity Crisp has brought her cousin to school, Ophelia Crisp, who actually hoodwinks Tan and Gloria – and Gloria’s dog Alfie. It brings all Tan’s and Gloria’s skills to the fore as they track characters, hide in gardens and overhear conversations to find out the truth. All ends well, to everyone’s relief, but it is Tan and Gloria who must clear it all up.
Storer’s girls and boys are feisty and funny. From decaying yabbies to one-eyed dogs, from cross teachers to tears shed in the toilet, it all rings true. Tan is a small girl who has empathy with others, but not to the extent that she is soppy. She tolerates Gloria’s obsession with horses because she loves Gloria, not because she is that interested in horses herself. She argues with her sisters, but she is confident that everyone loves her.
This is great reading for children from early to middle primary school. It is exciting, varied in presentation, has colourful characters and extending language. We need more of Tan.
Reviewed by Stella Lees