Sherlock Holmes kid lit

Derrick Belanger`s The Amazing Airship Adventure  is a charming and original book  about two apparently ordinary kids who live in 1897 London.   But young Jimmy and Emma  MacDougall are far from average: they are budding  10-year-old detectives who  sometimes work with the famed sleuth  Sherlock Holmes.  Both siblings have talents suited to this sort of work.  Much like Holmes, Emma makes it a point to notice life`s minute details.  Jimmy has mechanical aptitude and is also skilled at disguises (one of the best scenes in the story has him dress as an older man in order to get information from a newspaper editor).

The book`s upbeat tone and narrative from the  twins` perspective is often reminiscent of 19th century children`s lit writers like Edith Nesbit (The Railway Children, Book of Dragons).  It immerses the reader in its time quite effectively,  providing a myriad of details about what people wore, ate, and did for a living in the 1890`s.   This should fascinate history-loving young readers , as well as adult fans of steampunk lit/movies, and provide a great introduction to those  not familiar with this period.  Illustrated footnotes define each possibly unfamiliar term, from pince-nez to hansom cab.

Holmes himself is depicted as a fatherly figure who treats the twins as equals in the business of solving mysteries.   There are references to his career and adventures:   i.e., while advising Mrs. MacDougall to have her children get medical attention ( from Dr. Watson) he notes, “Sometimes small problems  you don`t see turn out to be big problems later.  This reminds me of the case of the Man with the Missing Right Hand.”

Brian Belanger`s pictures of the MacDougalls, Holmes and Watson, and their world are delightfully whimsical and provide an exuberant feel to the story.  Action shots of Jimmy and Emma riding a glider and traipsing around London are vivid and crisp, almost giving the black and white illustrations an inherent color.

Author Derrick Belanger is a middle school Language Arts teacher who is well versed in the  Sherlock Holmes universe.  A longtime fan of Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, he has also edited  ( with artist Brian Belanger) the two volume anthology A Study in Terror: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle`s Revolutionary Stories of Fear and the Supernatural.

In short, the Airship Adventure is a fun read for both kids and adults and a worthy addition to  both the Doyle tribute canon and the recent  influx of steampunk literature.  Apparently it is Book One of a series, as it contains a short preview of Book Two: Attack of the Violet Vampire.



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