One of the few benefits of being addicted to Facebook and Twitter is you can amass some serious swag. A favorite promotional tool of virtually every business out there is the “giveaway.” Just like in ye olden times, when the twelfth caller could call in to QFM96 (Ohio’s BEST ROCK) and win tickets to Rush, being the first, or the fifth or the one hundredth follower to reply, comment or re-tweet, can win you a goody bag. It’s not shoes or iPads that have me clicking furiously, it’s books. Books, books books. I read A LOT. I have a library card, I have an e-reader, I have sagging bookshelves, and I love them all equally just like your Mom told you and your three sisters.
Lucky for me, my social circle consists of mostly authors and illustrators and their giveaway of choice is always a book. I recently had the good fortune of winning a copy of author Martha Freeman’s latest book for kids, The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar. Three of my favorite things: a book, a book with a dog in it (who doesn’t die), and a mystery, all rolled into one glorious FREEBIE! I read a lot of middle grade, it’s one of my favorite genres, and The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar didn’t disappoint. It is engaging, funny, tightly plotted and keeps even a reader well out of the middle grade novel age range guessing until the end. I really love how the main characters are all girls, Mom’s the President of the United States, Grandma is a former judge and police officer, both the main character and her sister are smart and yet not overly-so for their ages. Cousin Nate is thrown in for some boy perspective. Yes, the whole family is a bit over-achieving (Dad builds air planes in California, their home state, during the week and gets to fly “home” to the White House on the weekends in a helicopter) but still realistically enough portrayed so we don’t secretly hope they trip and fall down the stairs or something. I mean, where’s Uncle Billy? (O.K. you had to have been alive during the Carter administration to get that, something I was painfully aware of when she described Amy Carter roller skating in the White House with ‘Once a long time ago…’ Wait, what? A long time ago? Not that long ago, no really, one, two, five, ten…O.K. fine, I’m old.) Anyone with an overly-exuberant, somewhat spoiled canine companion will also laugh out loud at the antics of Hooligan, their dog. And the dog doesn’t die at the end. Whew. The “case” the girls work to solve involves a gift of a collar for Hooligan from a “certain nearby nation” (hilarious) , that may or may not have real diamonds and that suddenly turns up missing. Trust me, you won’t see it coming.
This is the second book in Ms. Freeman’s First Kids Mystery series, and she was generous to include in my goody bag a copy of the first book in the series, The Case of the Rock and Roll Dog, which I ALSO thoroughly enjoyed. You don’t have to read them in order to get the gist. One of my favorite things about both is the description of the White House, rooms, grounds, how life there works. I am embarrassed to admit, I have never been to our nation’s capitol and reading these books made me very much want to take the White House tour and see it all for myself. It is very clear that Ms. Freeman has researched her subject out the wazoo, and could probably lead tours there.
In summation, two big thumbs up for both. I also received a “diamond” studded dog collar which is too small for my overly- exuberant, canine companions, but will be donated to a smaller, bling-less dog in need. I am eagerly awaiting the third in the First Kids Series, The Case of the Ruby Slippers, due in your library or bookstore in February 2012.