Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Secret of Terror Castle, by Robert Arthur

This books is about three boys who form a detective agency and call themselves The Three Investigators. Their motto is "We investigate anything", and their trademark is a question mark. Jupiter Jones is the "first" investigator. Jupe, as he is sometims known, has an immense vocabulary and a very high I.Q. He is constantly puzzling things out and thinking about clues. Bob Anderews works part-time at a library and is the agency's top researcher. Pete Crenshaw is the "second" investigator and is in much better physical shape than Jupiter.

For their first case as official detectives, the boys volunteer to find a haunted castle for a movie director. Terror Castle is a huge house located in a canyon not far from their homes. It was built over fifty years ago by an old movie star. But is the house really haunted? Why have people never been able to stay inside the house for a whole night? Are the rumors of ghosts and murders true? This book is a mystery that will keep you guessing and also keep you scared. And if you enjoy this first suspenseful story, you're in luck because The Three Investigators is a series, filled with many other entertaining mysteries and adventures.

What I like about this book: I love Jupiter Jones. I like how he's not embarrassed about how he's so smart and I think it's very cool how he sees clues and puts things together in ways that are unexpected, yet fitting.

What I think you'll like: the suspense and the scenes when the boys visit Terror Castle. (maybe read page 39, their first visit to TC.)

There. Another booktalk done. Talk about nostalgia. This series of books was my favorite series between the time I was ten and twelve. I have a distinct memory of puzzling out how my elementary school's library shelving system worked, just so that I could find more of them. I forget the plots and characters in many books, but when I reread this book recently I could still remember the climax, the resolution, and the descriptive phrase "sheer terror". That, believe it or not, is a twenty-one year old memory. This series, and the one page mini-mysteries in my mom's Woman's World magazines, were such powerful hooks that I am an avid mystery reader, to this day. I like many different types of books, but there isn't another genre that I've read as constantly or as broadly, throughout my many years as a reader.

It will be cool and satisfying if a few kids get into The Three Investigators, but I'm not counting on it. Even with newer, updated covers, the stories and characters are clearly dated. I think they were already a bit dated when I read them twenty years ago. And they are not easy books for elementary readers to zip right through. The whole book, not just Jupiter's dialogue, is interspersed with middle-school level vocabulary words. But maybe a kid or two will surprise me. That's part of the fun of teaching, you just never know.

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