The Painting That Wasn't There.
Brezenoff, Steve (Author) , Canga, C. B. (Illustrator)
Jan 2010. 88 p. Stone Arch, library edition, $17.99. (9781434216083).
This title in the Field Trip Mysteries series marries the always high-interest topic of an art heist with a breezy, straightforward story just right for reluctant readers. The book opens with an illustrated dossier belonging to sixth-grader James “Gum” Shoo (“Interests: Gum chewing, field trips, and showing everyone what a crook Anton Gutman is”) and three pals. The story then proceeds to tell how he got his flatfoot moniker. In art class, the kids learn about a famous painting and are delighted to find out that they’re going on a field trip to see it in person. At the museum, one of James’ henchfriends notices that the painting on the wall’s a forgery, and the four sleuths set out to uncover the perp. It’s a quickly paced and quickly resolved caper, but what’s lacking in characterization and plot is made up for in style: Canga’s illustrations add a touch of middle-school noir to the overall handsome presentation. The can-do spirit extends to the back matter, prompting kids to solve a mystery themselves or write up a new one.
— Ian Chipman
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