2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Serendipity Mystery: Diary of a Snoopy Cat by R.F. Kristi is the 7th book in the Inca Cat Detective Series. Like its predecessors, the book features the main character cat, Inca, the funny sidekick Fromage, Fromage’s hamster pal Charlotte, the pretty sister cat Cara, and their Mom (named Mom). There are also some new exotic creatures introduced, such as the turtle pal Rani, the baby elephant Meena and her mother elephant. Also, of course, old characters like Terrance the dog and his owner the human, detective Solo, both make an appearance. The story revolves around a stolen artifact and the search for the thieves. Along the way Inca runs into a wild pack of Leopards in the dark and scary forest, she must sneak into houses to find clues, and she learns that she couldn’t have solved the mystery without her friends.
The book is written for early readers and the author does a good job of including complex writing techniques with similes like “My furry family and I were behaving like flower buds in the warm sunshine.” Then she explains the simile saying, “We ate more than we needed to, squabbled a bit more than normal, purred more than usual, and lapped water non-stop.” The author did a good job sticking to easy phrases, but also challenging the children. The pictures disappointed me, however, since they seemed to be random depictions of things real or imagined and they didn’t add much to the story.
My disappointment in this book came when the author chose to stereotype Sri Lankan's, making them the antagonists, but also making it so they needed a white woman to do the smuggling. The description of Mr. Appu is "a large, dark man appeared at the door. He was a great, scowling man, very tall, whose skin was a deep soot black. He gave an angry snarl, his gold fillings sparkling like fireflies against his dark face. His voice sounded like the distant rumble of thunder. He gave a twist to his colorful sarong to anchor it more firmly around his large hips. He then came charging at us with a broom held high," he is also described as chatting with the "mean rogue from the village, Babu, [who] has been skulking about," and who is introduced as " running, yanking up his baggy pants as he came. He looked like a small, energetic, dark brown walnut." I feel like portraying the two dark-skinned characters as crazy, angry, dirty, violent, and rogue is a problematic portrayal in a children's book. The third dark-skinned character is the rich woman who owns the house but also she needs, of course, a white woman' called Madam Pantsuit who "was leaving the island, and her diplomatic shipment, which was never searched," and was supposed to take the stolen sword out of the country." So even the rich dark-skinned woman needed a white woman to help her complete the job. The multiple negative and incompetent portrayals of dark-skinned characters are extremely damaging for a children's book and entirely unnecessary.
I did think that the execution of the ending was great. With the main cat, Inca, learning that working together is better than going it alone. Inca "Suddenly. . . realized that I could never have found the goodies if it were not for Terrance, Rani the turtle, and Meena the baby elephant. Cara, Fromage, and Charlotte had all helped, too. It had been a joint effort," and that "To be honest, it had been fun to work together—much more exciting than going it alone." This is an excellent lesson to include in a children's, young reader book, especially because according to Inca "modesty is not a virtue shared by the kitties in our family." Having all the animals work together and having animals help Inca when she is in trouble make it clear that though Inca may be a super snoopy cat she also needs her team beside her!
2Overall, I would rate this book a 2 out of 4 stars mainly for the subtle racism and problematic language used to describe some characters. I would still recommend this book to young readers because the writing style is very well done for the age group and the story is easy to follow but also includes some fun twists and turns. The overall message of friends working together to solve a problem is a great one to introduce children to early and this book portrays this excellently.
Serendipity Mystery: Diary of a Snoopy Cat
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like xBibliobibulix's review? Post a comment saying so!