KidPages: The Deductive Detective by Brian Rock

Apr 1, 2013

You may have noticed that I've been reading a lot of books about education lately. (Some have even approached me, wondering if I'm getting ready to jump on the homeschooling bandwagon. In case you've been wondering, too: Not yet, but it never hurts to be prepared.) Anyway, everything I've been reading has stressed the importance of letting the child be in control of his own education; let him decide what he wants to learn and when he wants to learn it and how much of it he wants to learn.

This type of parenting and teaching takes a great amount of energy and creativity. I don't think I'm quite cut out for it. But luckily, my kids love books, and as long as they continue to love them, there will always be a way for them to learn what they want to know. (Why, just the other day I checked out a fabulous book all about worms because Aaron is currently spending hours a day digging them up.)

Besides a vast number of nonfiction titles to satisfy my children's ever-growing curiosity, there are also many, many fictional stories out there that include some kind of educational spin. The Deductive Detective is one such kind of book. Published by Sylvan Dell (an educational company), I was expecting it to include some science or math concepts, and I was not disappointed.

The book begins with an urgent phone call to Duck: one of the cakes is missing from the cake contest! Duck rushes over to find Fox crying over the disappearance of her beautiful cake. Duck begins to look over the suspects: there are 12 other cake decorators present, so the thief must be one of them. Slowly, Duck begins eliminating suspects: Mouse is too small to make off with such a big cake, Rooster was busy waking everyone up when the cake was stolen, etc. Eventually, he's down to one last suspect who turns out to, indeed, be the (hungry) cake thief!

The educational spin I was talking about came in the form of deductive reasoning and subtraction. At times, it felt a little contrived, like you could tell you were supposed to learn to use logic and subtraction, but honestly, most fictional/educational hybrids I've read felt like they were written for one angle or another.

My boys love this kind of book where they get to look for clues, make guesses, and figure things out. Most of the premises and subsequent conclusions made sense to my 3- and 4-year-olds: they could understand that, of course, the thief couldn't have been Swan because Duck had found an incriminating strand of hair, and Swans don't have hair. The only one that was too much of a stretch for me was Horse, who is freed from suspicion after they see that the lights are off in the kitchen. They conclude that it couldn't have been Horse because he's "not a dark horse." This didn't make any sense to the boys, and frankly, not much to me either.

The subtraction part was fun, especially for my 4-year-old, who has recently been doing a lot of addition and subtraction in his head. The story begins with 12 suspects, and each time one is eliminated, the results are given: 12 - 1 = 11. I think my only problem with this was just that we started with 12, which made the story feel really long. However, the book is geared for ages 3-8, so even though 12 was a little bit high of a countdown for my 3-year-old, it probably helps make it more interesting for the older crowd.

There are quite a few puns and slapstick-type jokes scattered throughout the story.  For example, Detective Duck realizes that the thief couldn't be Tiger because they found some hand prints on the windowsill, and Tigers have paws, not hands. Tiger says, "And I have claws on my paws...That's why I always bake from scratch." Of course, I caught the joke, but it was more eye-rolling than funny to me, and the humor went right over my kids' heads. I explained some of the jokes to them, but mostly I found them distracting and silly.

The illustrations were satisfactory. I would have liked a few more details in places (like a hand print on the windowsill when that's being discussed), but overall they were engaging and fun and went well with the story.

While this maybe was not our favorite picture book of all time, it did what it set out to do. My expectations were well-placed, and I wasn't disappointed or surprised. It taught new skills in an engaging way, and even if it sometimes felt like it was written for the sole purpose of teaching deductive reasoning, it did teach it, and it was fun in the process.

Along with this review, I had the opportunity to ask the author, Brian Rock, a few questions. I hope you enjoy getting to know him!

Q: Where did you get the idea for The Deductive Detective?
A: The Deductive Detective was inspired by my daughter's BFF snuggle buddy, Quacky. I wanted to write a story for them both, but wanted to try to avoid the usual duck themes that had already been done in stories like Make Way For Ducklings and Little Quack. So I started doing some word associations with duck, which led to deductive, which of course led to a detective.

Q: The story includes a lot of puns and other funny lines. Do you enjoy telling jokes in real life?
A: I probably enjoy telling them more than my friends and family enjoy hearing them, but yes. In fact, I used to do a little stand up comedy when I lived in Roanoke, VA (and boy are my legs tired!).

Q:  What made you decide to become a writer? Have you always enjoyed writing? Tell us about something you wrote as a kid.
A: I've wanted to be a writer from as early as I can remember. I think the first time I realized that I could write or say something that would make someone else laugh, I was hooked.When we used to go on family trips, I would take a notepad and write my own comics and jokes and riddles. The earliest I can remember was about third or fourth grade when I wrote a series of comics about a dog, a cat, and a mouse that went on a trip to the moon. I haven't checked in a while, they may be there still!

Q: Did you like reading when you were a child? What was your favorite book?
A: I loved reading. My family moved around a lot as I was growing up so I was always "the new kid." Books and music became some of my closest friends.Some of my favorite books when I was younger were Ferdinand the Bull, Winnie the Pooh, Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Phantom Tollbooth.

Q: What is your favorite picture book (besides your own, of course!)?
A: When I was younger my favorite picture book was Ferdinand the Bull, because I think I related with that character that doesn't quite fit in with others' expectations. Of more recent picture books, I'm a huge fan of the whole Pigeon series by Mo Willems. I'm amazed at how much emotion he can pack into so few words.

Q: Besides writing, what else do you like to do?
A: I also write Country songs with my friends in the group Family Reunion ( Our debut album, Family Album won the 2012 ICMA award for album of the year. I also enjoy playing football in a rec league with my friends. I enjoy cooking with my wife, and of course reading with my daughter.

Q: Do you have any tips for reluctant readers?
A: Explore! If you keep looking, I guarantee you'll find something interesting to read about.
But mainly, my advice is for parents of reluctant readers - let them choose what they want to read. The more interested they are in a story, the more likely they are to read it. Try to avoid that "you need to read this" or the "you ought to read that" mindset. Let kids discover themselves in the books they choose. I know a good one about a duck detective I can recommend!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.


  1. Replies
    1. Oh yes, I actually read your review a few days ago! I'm glad they liked it!

  2. This sounds like something Ginny would love. She is the Queen of logic around here, leading us step by step through her odd little conclusions. Most of the time I feel like she's just along for the ride with either Abby or Tag- books rarely fit her perfectly. I'm excited to give this a try with her.

    1. I think the puns might drive you crazy, but yes, Ginny probably would like it.

  3. Ha, I do not have the energy to be a homeschooler. I feel like it would take over my life and I prefer to focus on the things I love learning along side my kids. That doesn't feel like work at all! Great interview. Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf.

    1. Erica--YES! You just hit upon why I think it would be hard for me to homeschool--I think it might take away from the learning activities I love doing with my kids. I want learning to feel exciting and fun, not like a task that must be completed. I know some homeschoolers who have achieved that, but it would take some work for me to get to that point.

  4. I like the premise behind this book, but 12 suspects to begin with seems like a lot for a 3 year old! I love how the author used to do stand-up comedy! lol

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop! Please check out our upcoming Kid Lit Giveaway Hop - sign-ups are now OPEN! Best, Renee

    1. Thanks for letting me know! Sounds like it will be a fun event!

  5. I am an avid Sherlock Holmes reader, so my kid will be getting this 'lite' version. It sounds like it and Encycopedia Brown will be the steps Max will take before he is old enough for my SH books. Thanks for the review!

    Also, great interview! I love that last answer - let them read what they want to read. It sort of applies to every aspect of parenting. The sports kids play, the careers young adults decide to take on...they should get to make the decisions based on their likes and dislikes, not based on living out mom or dad's fantasies for them.

    Thanks so much for linking this post into the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

    1. I agree with you, even though sometimes it is difficult for me to let them choose, especially when it's something I've read dozens of times! But I think there is great value in giving them that independence.


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