Tape Escape (Max Booth Super Sleuth #1)

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Cameron Macintosh (text), Dave Atze (illus.),  Tape Escape (Max Booth Super Sleuth #1),  Big Sky Publishing,  1 August 2017,  130pp.,  $12.99 (pbk),  ISBN:  9781925520606

Max Booth and his dog Oscar are ‘shadie’ urchins, having escaped the Skyburb 7 Home for Unclaimed Urchins, the year before (that’s 2423). Tape Escape may be the first in the series, but Cameron Macintosh wastes no time in getting readers right into the middle of Max’s sleuthing, while weaving some details of his past into the narrative. It did make me feel like I was missing out on some information, which left me wondering the questions younger readers might have about this book and Max.

But on to the story – Max and his robot dog Oscar are living in the packing room of a museum, where they often help the supervisor, Jessie, find out more information about the crazy old stuff that the museum has – in this case, a cassette tape which, to be fair, already qualifies as “old” for us right now, and actually grounds the book in a way. Readers should recognise the item.

There is some hilarious back and forth about the cassette tape as Max, Jessie and Oscar try to figure out exactly what it is, highlighting just how far technology has changed. Max is an absolute fan of the 21st century, though he can’t quite understand why people back then would keep real animals given the messes they would have had to clean up. Macintosh throws in humorous bits and pieces like this throughout the book, giving young readers food for though and providing some interesting conversations for parents or teachers to navigate.

Max and Oscar’s investigation takes them to a futuristic library cataloguing old things, and from then on to the realisation that what they have is one of the last known recordings of David Snowie, a musical legend who last released an album 400 years ago. In order to authenticate the recording, they visit a forensic “muzicologist” who promptly steals their find, and announces to the public he’s selling it.

Not to be deterred, Max and Oscar come up with yet another audacious plan to get it back involving secret identities and some very funny disguises, brought to life wonderfully by the illustrations. They successfully retrieve the cassette and the “muzicologist” ends up comfortably behind bars.

While at first glance this is a science fiction novel, the story doesn’t heavily feature that genre – the worldbuilding of course is futuristic and illustrations show different sorts of robots, including Oscar – but at its heart this is an adventure story, involving a young boy determined to do the right thing, with his dog by his side. Though Oscar might be a robot dog, he is intelligent, emotional and helps Max on his mission. Their friendship is palpable and who doesn’t love a dog side-kick?

Dave Atze’s illustrations are fun, and reminiscent of a comic book, which complemented Macintosh’s exciting, futuristic adventure story perfectly.

Teacher’s Notes are available on the Big Sky Publishing website.

Reviewed by Verushka Byrow

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