When is 4 take away 1 equal to 5?
This is one of the brain teasers 12-year-old Charlie is tested with in "Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire: The Homemade Stuffing Caper." He loves to solve brain teasers, and his answer for this one is: in Roman numerals.
Charlie Collier comes from a long line of detectives, each with his or her own special investigator gift. They all look to Sam Solomon for tricks — a fictional detective they are big fans of. Every time Charlie gets in a jam, he thinks of a favorite Sam Solomon book and uses one of Solomon's tricks to get himself out of trouble. Each of the chapter titles in "The Homemade Stuffing Caper" is also a title of one of Sam Solomon's books.
Charlie runs his own detective business out of his garage. One day, he gets tired of small cases and brain teasers and decides to tackle bigger cases. He joins a top-secret detective agency run by the librarian and his Grandma. Of course, the agency's office is an exact copy of Sam Solomon's office.
Charlie's first case deals with finding Socrates, a missing bird of his friend, Scarlett. The case becomes complicated and dangerous and Charlie wonders if it's even possible to solve it. He follows a bully from school and makes a surprising discovery that leads to a huge and scary mess. With the help of Sam Solomon, Charlie goes above and beyond to prove himself a better detective than he imagined he could be.
Charlie Collier runs his own website at CharlieCollierSnoopForHire.com. It's written from Charlie's point of view instead of the author's, whom Charlie calls "My Boss." It's a really cool site, with 10 brain teasers to solve, reviews, author information and appearances — and even a place to stump Charlie with your own riddles.
In an email interview for this book review, Charlie offered a lot more information. He told of his summer plans, which include mini-vacations to Wisconsin and Illinois. He is especially looking forward to seeing Superman exhibits and reading Sam Solomon novels.
Charlie is now working on "The Camp Phoenix Caper," which takes place at a boot camp for troubled teens. All of the people who helped him solve his first case are back to assist in this one. He even uses his favorite Sam Solomon trick to make an escape.
During this interview, Charlie even solved the brain teaser: how do you get down from an elephant? He answered, "You don't get down from an elephant, you get down from a goose."
Charlie's "boss," the author, is a man named John Madormo. He lives in the Chicago area and is a screenwriter, professor and author. He has taught broadcast communications courses for 30 years at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. His next Charlie Collier mystery book will be out in February 2013, with another one soon to follow. They are "The Camp Phoenix Caper" and "The Copy Cat Caper."
This was so much fun to read. It was hard to put it down. Especially interesting is the connection to Sam Solomon and his mysteries. The website is a great addition to the book. It's just too bad that the next book is not coming out until next year. It's too long a wait.
Ellie De Groote is 8 years old and runs the blog SuperKidReviews.wordpress.com with her 10-year-old sister, Kate.