This lovely, warmhearted novel reveals how Precious Ramotswe, the star of Smith's the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series for adults, launched her sleuthing career. Curious and observant, Precious, "one of the nicest girls in Botswana," is a natural detective. She finds her first case at school, when a piece of cake, a slice of jam-slathered bread, and some iced buns disappear. Smith laces his narrative with drily contemplative musings ("You can lose a plain piece of bread and not think twice about it, but when you lose one spread thickly with strawberry jam it's an altogether more serious matter") as well as direct addresses to readers that tap into childhood dreams of being a detective. When classmates accuse a "rather round" student of the thefts and he denies it, Precious believes him and hunts for the real culprit. Throughout, Smith shares wise insights on human nature through his compassionate and fair-minded protagonist. Bold and striking, McIntosh's chunky, two-color woodcutlike pictures present evocative images of the African setting. This is a story, and a heroine, with impressive dimension. Ages 7-10. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Apr.)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
Gr 1-3--Young readers are introduced to Precious Ramotswe, a young sleuth in Botswana, in this prequel to the adult series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" (Pantheon). Trouble occurs when tasty treats disappear in her school. When word gets out, Precious is on the case. Observant readers will find the biggest clue to solving the mystery on the front cover. Primitive in nature and using only red, brown, and black on cream paper, the illustrations are minimal and the characters appear to be adults rather than children. The story is predictable and unlikely to have beginning chapter book readers awaiting Precious's next case.--Janene Corbin, Rosebank Elementary School, Nashville, TN[Page 137]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.