A picture book based on an inspired concept, where the text tells one story and the pictures a complete different one. Young readers will quickly spot who the real detective genius is!
This is a story about a little girl, Sophie Johnson, who claims to be a detective genius. Sophie studied very hard to learn to be a detective and she knows just what to do solve crimes and battle baddies. For example, she knows all about taking fingerprints and interviewing suspects. It’s just as well she does as there has been a crime: someone has stolen Lion’s tail! Sophie sets to work to investigate but this means she’s too busy to train her new assistant, Bella the dog. It also means she’s too busy to pay proper attention to what Bella is up to. If she did, Sophie might just realise that that it’s Bella who is the true detective genius.
Our main character in this story, Sophie Johnson, claims to be very clever. However, the real genius behind this picture book has to be author, Morag Hood, who I assume both wrote the words and outlined the equally – if not more – important second story that is told through the pictures. Indeed, Sophie’s description of Bella’s inability to understand the important skills needed to be a detective is only interesting because the pictures tell a very different story. (The story in the pictures clearly shows that it is Bella who is the true detective able to solve crimes and catch the baddies).
I was impressed by the way the words and pictures work seamlessly together and I simply loved some of the scenarios and details used to contrast Sophie’s words with the true situation. For example, Sophie states that Bella ‘just keeps trying to show me things that I know can’t possibly be important’ on a page where the picture shows Bella holding a series of arrows pointing to the missing lion’s tail. Similarly, Sophie goes on to explain that ‘Bella just shouts about nothing all day long’ while the picture clearly shows Bella barking at two burglars sneaking past the window. My favourite, however, has to be the page where Sophie explains they are ‘the same age, but I am definitely smarter than her’: the picture shows Sophie struggling to do basic sums while Bella is solving difficult equations. (This is, perhaps, the only example that children will need explaining to them but it’s definitely worth it to amuse the adults).
The highly stylised pictures are bright and colourful with plenty of characterisation. (Bella is able to pull a remarkable number of expressions for a dog and there are a couple of pictures of a cat that really made me smile, especially when the cat is dubiously watching Sophie fingerprint her toy rabbit.) However, while the pictures are appealing it is really the concept that makes this book so worth reading.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to read Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad. Alternatively, why not try a picture book with a clever twist: I still smile when I think about Rosie is my Best Friend by Ali Pye.