The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse: A Chet Gecko Mystery

Bruce Hale, Author, Bruce Hale, Illustrator Harcourt Children's Books $14 (112p) ISBN 978-0-15-202281-5
Hale (How the Gecko Lost His Tail) launches a mild new mystery series starring fourth-grade gumshoe Chet Gecko, who searches for a missing chameleon named Billy. ""Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame. (That's what we private eyes call a girl.)"" Shirley Chameleon, wearing a chartreuse scarf, hires Chet (for the price of a piece of stinkbug pie) to locate her brother, last seen with an angry Gila monster named Herman. As he follows clues through the school and encounters an eclectic menagerie of students and teachers, Chet's comical asides form a tongue-in-cheek satire of hard-nosed Sam Spade types, while other jokes opt for broader humor (e.g., one chapter heading reads, ""To Grill a Mockingbird""). The position of lead detective fluctuates between the private eye and his good friend Natalie Attired, the ""smartest mockingbird around."" This light, humorous fare offers a fairly transparent mystery that may not wow whodunit fans, but beginning readers especially will appreciate the offbeat, likable cast and quirky comedy and may well look forward to Gecko's second case, The Mystery of Mr. Nice, scheduled for release in August. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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