Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Juvenile Thriller, Intentional: I happened across a copy of The Three Investigators' The Secret of Terror Castle, by Robert Arthur, which I read and loved back when my age was a single digit. If you have boys up to, oh, 7-9 years old, this is about the perfect book to read them. Older than that they can probably read it to themselves. The plot is well worn: young investigators get mixed up in a supposedly haunted castle which, over time, proves only to be haunted by misguided adults who just need a helping hand. But knowing the clich‚ is not necessarily a negative for kids. They don't have so much confidence in their conclusions that they are bored, and they are happy when proven right.

The Secret of Terror Castle, as with the entire Three Investigators series, mixes straightforward sentence construction and linear timelines with just enough style and idiosyncratic characters to be considered a stimulating read. Here we see the Three Investigators team formed by Jupiter Jones; Sherlock Holmes transformed into a portly adolescent boy. His Watson consists of a pair of compatriots Pete Crenshaw, the smart mouthed athlete who is his right hand man, and Bob Andrews, the bookish library worker who is in charge of records and research. They have a hidden headquarters in a junk yard and, thanks to a clever victory in a jelly bean counting contest, access to a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur.

What you end up with are nicely paced adventures featuring children of generic enough type that kids will identify, but enough personality to seem like actual people -- people of the sort most young boys would like to have as friends. No doubt, most young boys could easily imagine living these adventures themselves. (It's more realistic than Shibumi, anyway.) Each chapter ends with open questions and should have kids begging to continue. If they are anything like I was at that age, they won't rest until they finish the series.