cover image Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Christopher Paul Curtis, . . Random/ Lamb, $15.95 (153pp) ISBN 978-0-385-90936-5

Encyclopedia Brown may have to move over. There's a new detective in town with a hip attitude and some pretty nifty spy gadgets to boot. This premiere volume of a series created by the author of Bud, Not Buddy introduces fourth grader Steven Carter, detective extraordinaire and "second-smartest student at Clark Elementary School." The novel opens with Steven at the side of a dam and his best friend presumed dead; five "Agents" in black suits start questioning him about a mysterious "item." Steven then flashes back to his first "case," when his good friend, Mr. Chickee, a blind elderly gentleman, gives him an unusual gift—a quadrillion-dollar bill imprinted with a picture of James Brown. But is the bill legitimate cash or "funny money"? Using his souped-up MP3 player that makes eavesdropping a breeze and a magic dictionary that gives advice, Steven makes some headway in unraveling the mystery. Meanwhile, with the help of his two sidekicks, seven-year-old Russell Woods and Russell's monstrous dog, Zoopy, Steven is kept busy trying to stay one step ahead of Special Agent William T. Fondoo from the U.S. Treasury Department, who has ulterior motives for wanting to get his hand on the dough. Offering catchy lingo, bigger-than-life predicaments and an array of boldly drawn characters, this book is well aimed at readers in search of an unconventional and comical brand of mystery. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)