By Bernice Williams, Librarian at Ngaio School
Dear Detective Gordon, and bright, sweet Buffy, you will be sorely missed.
This fifth and final in the Detective Gordon series written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee has recently been released by Gecko Press, and it is a real gem.
We meet the retired Chief Detective Gordon, a warm-hearted, wise, and cake-loving toad, who supports his replacement, Chief Detective Buffy, a lively and courageous young mouse, who now has responsibility for policing and maintaining order in the local surrounds.
The challenge is on to discover who has made a commotion in the night and smashed to smithereens Badger’s trash can. Given that it “was absolutely forbidden to make noise at night”, the case must be investigated.
Readers of this story are immersed in a simple world where the close community of forest animals delight in everyday happenings, and support and look out for each other. The book provides an introduction to southern hemisphere audiences of Scandinavian troll folklore, along with some inventive vocabulary. You will have to read the book to uncover the meaning of “brumbling” and “scrorching”.
We encounter once more the motifs of the previous books in the series: the mouth-watering cakes, the famous stamp – Kla-Dunk – which is applied most carefully to each important police document, and the pistol, which is forbidden and remains locked in its glass cupboard at the police station.
The build-up of suspense and use of humour will be appreciated by a young audience. The chapter entitled “Buffy becomes flat” describes the lead-up to, and the terrible injury incurred by the Chief Detective in the line of duty. “Buffy was rolled as thin as gingerbread. She was completely flattened.”
With the delightful illustrations providing wonderful support to the text, we see how the animals execute Buffy’s rescue.
“How shall we take her home?”
“Just roll her up like an old blanket,” said the crow… Badger said that everyone should stand around her, take a corner each, and all lift at the same time. Buffy’s mother gently unfolded one of Buffy’s ears, swallowing her tears.”
All worry is then allayed when the title of the following chapter is revealed: “Buffy becomes round again.” And of course, the solution to Buffy’s recovery is for her to be inflated!
Like all good children’s books, this one imparts some big messages. They are peppered throughout the story and delivered in the gentlest of ways, each universally relatable and perfectly pitched to a child’s perspective.
Below are some of the thought-provoking notions and concepts woven into the story.
“No one thinks the same as oneself,” said Gordon. “Everyone is different. We must understand that, otherwise we make mistakes in our police work.”
Helmer, a young squirrel and aspiring police cadet is faced with a difficult decision: “He wanted to be a good police officer, and he wanted to be a good friend. What was the right thing?”
“No one can help what they look like! If someone is ugly and brumbles to a certain extent, that’s their right. It’s not a crime.”
“There is always a good ending. In every story. And in real life. If one is open to everything.”
I very much look forward to reading this story aloud to a junior class and inviting discussion on some of these topics.
This final Detective Gordon book makes a great contribution to the argument in favour of ‘slow’ reading and for sharing gentle, ‘quiet’ books to comfort, and to decrease the fast pace of the world. Acknowledging the strength and value of community, populated with appealing characters, and centred on compassion and humanity, it offers a charming antidote to the frenzy of fast-paced action stories, and a reminder to all of what is good and important in life.
Detective Gordon – A Case with a Bang is available now from all good bookstores and on our website, as well as the rest of the Detective Gordon series.