Reviews /

Einstein the Penguin:  the Case of the Polar Poachers

Authored by Iona Rangeley
Illustrated by David Tazzyman
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

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This is the third volume in the Einstein the Penguin series, and it should be noted that it is worth reading the books in order. Whilst this is a stand-alone story, there are references to the previous adventures of Imogen and Arthur, together with their friends Gracie and Theo – and not forgetting Mr and Mrs Stewart, the rather long-suffering parents of Imogen and Arthur – which whilst not insuperable might be problematic to some readers. Understanding how they came to be connected with a rather clever penguin by reading them in order extends the pleasure to be had from the series, as well as supporting comprehension.

This particular mystery involves penguins disappearing from South Sandwich Island and of course our young sleuths are called in to prove that there is theft involved, not that penguins are simply decamping to another location. Imogen yet again shows her ingenuity in overcoming the problems with adults not taking an eleven-year-old seriously, though I did wince at the thought of a child of mine putting long-distance calls through to a research station in the Antarctic.

There are some nice conundrums for readers to puzzle: why is Vanessa Hunter calling herself Susannah Evert? (It’s an anagram). And some interesting areas for discussion which lifts this from a simple detective story to something a little meatier: the transition from Y6 to Y7; feeling lost; disliking labels which can lead to being bullied; parents not wanting to court publicity; the veracity, or otherwise, of newspaper reporting.

This is a rather London-centric book, with references to the Congestion Charge and humour associated with Imogen putting a call through to The Ritz in an attempt to track down her ‘granny’ (the villain Vanessa Hunter we met in previous books) – who likes to stay there, or possibly at the Holiday Inn. Occasionally I felt Rangeley was trying a little too hard with the humour, but I doubt that would trouble the target audience. And the illustrations by David Tazzyman are entirely in keeping with the text. At the end of this book, Einstein comes to live with the Stewarts –is this the end of the series, or setting the scene for the next adventure?  A good book for the class library, with perhaps volume 1 read as a class reader to cue in the younger KS2 reader to the subsequent texts.