Frog and Toad meet Encylopedia Brown with a dash of The Wind in the Willows in the award-winning Detective Gordon series, a charming, whimsical set of five chapter books for ages 6-10. The final book in the series, A Case with a Bang starts off with young mouse Detective Buffy investigating a case of “night noise,” “brumbling and scrorching” and Badger’s destroyed trash can. She is aided by retired Detective Gordon, a wise old toad who trained her to be a detective, and a young, active trainee, a squirrel from kindergarten named Helmer.
Munching on cakes, Buffy and Gordon discuss the book he is reading, about a 1300-year-old troll named Bang. Then Buffy heads off to interview the upset Badger. While investigating the case of the crushed trash can, Buffy is herself flattened. Luckily the friendly forest animals are able to re-inflate her.
An astonished Buffy eventually discovers that the trolls of Gordon’s story are real—and hungry. They haven’t eaten in twelve years and thus are “a little peckish.” Buffy gives them cakes and offers to teach them how to bake more.
When the trolls realize they had accidentally squashed Buffy, they are deeply apologetic:
“Was that you? We were just trying to get away from a bright light and an angry voice,” Bang said regretfully. “We ran away in terror!”
“It was by accident that we trampled on little you,” said Bong. “Yes, we did feel something soft underfoot, but we hoped it was just a small… well, a sock.”
Both trolls started to sniffle and their tears splashed onto the floor. Bong reached out and stroked Buffy’s cheek.
“Everything turned out all right,” said Buffy.
“We offer a thousand apologies for what we did!” Bang said in a soft brumble. “But we were so scared of you.”
Like the other books in the series, A Case with a Bang is filled with often wry, philosophical statements about kindness and tolerance, many of which Buffy jots into her detective notebook, stamping all entries with a definitive “Kla-dunk!” She tells Helmer, “We must write down what we’ve learned on a piece of paper, stamp it, then put it in the drawer for important notes.”
Buffy’s notes for the latest case include:
“Everyone thinks differently: listen carefully to all.”
“There is always a good ending. In every story. And in real life. If one is open to everything.”
Although each volume in the series is a satisfying stand-alone read, they’re even more satisfying read in order, as the reader gets to watch Gordon’s and Buffy’s relationship grow over time. And, in case it isn’t obvious, I love this delightful, gentle series and cannot praise it enough.
A Case with a Bang
Written by Ulf Nilsson
Illustrated by Gitte Spee
Translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall
2023, Gecko Press
You can buy a copy here* or find it at a library.
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Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 90 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book and a GLLI YA Books in Translation Honor Book; California Dreamin’ was a 2018 Harvey Awards Best European Book. Recent translations include Magical History Tour: Slavery; fantasy manga Bibi & Miyu, LGBTQ manga Just Friends and Sirius: Twin Stars; The Sisters: My New Big Sister; Alice on the Run: One Child’s Journey Through the Rwandan Civil War; Rosa Parks; Chloe Green Thumb; and the critically acclaimed A House Without Windows.