4 1/2 FRIENDS AND THE SECRET CAVE

Joachim Friedrich, Author , trans. by Elizabeth D. Crawford. Hyperion $14.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0648-5

This spirited import from Germany is the first in a series that, according to the publisher, has more than 800,000 copies in print worldwide. Given the solid characterizations, quick-moving plot and humor of the inaugural volume, the series has a sound chance for success in this country as well. The narrator is the self-effacing, oft-excluded Radish (so dubbed because he's almost a head shorter than his twin sister and has the last name Rademacher), who discovers a cave in which someone has stashed a doll and a teddy bear. When he tells Steffi, his twin sister, and her bossy friend, Collin, that he has found a treasure map dated 1946 in the cave as well, they agree to let him become a partner in their "detective agency." Aided by another friend and a neighbor's toddler (the "1/2" pal of the title), they make several comical attempts at tracking down the buried treasure, the existence of which is made all the more plausible when Radish shows the others an old gold coin that he found near the cave. Friedrich balances the story's madcap moments with more substantive material, as when Radish's father confides that he, too, was lonely as a child. This promising series continues with 4½ Friends and the Disappearing Bio Teacher, due out the same month. Ages 8-12. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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Hardcover - 144 pages - 978-0-7868-2588-2
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